Monday 22 December 2014

Do You Know Where You're Going To ; Ethical Entrepreneurship, George Eastman photographic evolution & Seth Godin makes a ruckus

Running a business is hard work. Make no mistake about it. But the rewards at a personal level are immensely satisfying; you are the person at the top and that can be the best feeling in the world. When the sales are made, the deals are done and the team and workforce can fullfill those orders, then it's you who gets to enjoy the fruits of those labours first. It's fantastically gratifying, and drives you onwards to do more and share more, depending on how you are geared internally.

But it's a fine, double edged sword and you need to keep your wits about you, and have a strong mind and will to run the show. In short, it's you who is ultimately responsible for your 'bottom line'. So if you haven't shipped the product, made the sale, closed the deal or delivered the goods or services, then you'll be the one to foot the blame. 

My parents, together with a business partner, ran their own business successfully for over 25 years. As a teenager, I'd help in the summers and eventually did a seven year stint there myself, post university. I wasn't sat in the office, occasionally coming out to stroke my tie and snap my braces either.

My tenure there taught me more about the world of work than any other job I've ever had. It was trully at the deep end and felt that way for a number of years. Contrary to any myth that may be perpetuated about being 'one of the family', I did the lot. From loading vans, to even sweeping the factory floor and cleaning the canteen kitchen if the cleaning lady didn't show up ( that wasn't something my father was happy about at all, but I saw it as 'it's got to be done!') as well as all the administration, and sales work. I even designed and implemented a stock & inventory flow control system for finished items, which they carried on implementing well after I'd left the business.

I'd learned many lessons in that environment, which are with me to this day. One of the most important lessons I learned, was retaining a sense of emotional perspective when dealing with all aspects and developing emotional intelligence moving onwards.

In essence,being an entrepreneur shouldn't be all about money and squeezing the last penny and nickel out of each and every deal. Whilst profit is important, it is solid morals and ethics that stand the test of time :-

Real Business Ethics and Meaningful Entrepreneurship

Making meaning as well as money, is something that a  lot of entrepreneurs are doing right now. Witness the level of 'how can I help?' rhetoricising that comes up in differing ways within mission statements. Leaving less of a carbon footprint, for example, or in the case of Toms, you have the company donating a pair for each pair you buy and also the gift of sight program they implement. This 'one for one' is something that was built into the corporate structure from the start, which is remarkable and would have been considered a risky move even 10 or 15 years ago.

My feeling is that if you can do something in a similar vein, then you have managed to give something back from the moment you have decided to crease that metaphorical leather chair. Furthermore, it doesn't appear as if you have 'bolted on' some sort of ethical halo in order to make a business appear more altruistic, which can be a backfiring tactic in these times of greater information and transparency.

On the subject of transparency, one man made it a 20 year quest to take the then cumbersome process of photography, into a portable medium :-

How George Eastman Revolutionized Photography

Kodak was a name synonymous with cameras for almost 100 years, and it's instamatic range, together with rolls of portable film are what it was best known for. It's a sign of the times that Kodak went through near bankrupcy in the last five years, to re-emerge as a digital platform based business. Clearly the brand name still has large value attached to it, and it has been involved in the development of the micro four thirds camera, which came out earlier this year. Let's hope they carry on developing and innovating in the years ahead.

Someone who never stops innovating and coming up newer with ideas to facilitate change, is Seth Godin :-

Seth Godin: Keep Making a Ruckus 

I own a number of his books and recently bought 'The Dip', which at less than 100 pages, has to be one of the slimmest tomes I've had the pleasure to own. But just like any book by the late Paul Arden , it is packed with powerful and valuable advice. That's the raison d'etre with this sort of thing. It's not there to patronise or condescend, but merely to help with pushing you towards the 'eureka moment', where it all just slots into place.

Just like in life itself, a similar conundrum can apply. You can know where you're going, but are unsure about how to navigate towards your destination. Providing you've got a map and are willing to be guided when needed, you'll get there. You may even decide en route, that it's time to go in a different direction. That's fine, as adjustment and change are part of the deal, irrespective of which road you chose.

In any event, provided that you keep yourself fuelled with enough drive, energy and compassion, both to yourself and for others along the way, you'll remember the ride for years to come.

And that's a journey worth taking time and time again.

I Am The One & Only ; Creative element takes tenacity and patience , The psychology of music & The colour thesaurus

We all have to do what we have to do. The emphasis on the second instance of have, was to signify the concept of doing something that actually feels like you're working on it.

For example, you have to clean your house or flat, in order to keep things tidy, and for your own health ( and sanity). You have to go to work ( unless you're very wealthy and/or have enough residual income to live on), in order to survive and thrive.

But there are things that on the face of it, can seem to others to be much more difficult to do, which you may be able to do, without thinking too much about it. That's what it means to be 'in your element'.

Ken Robinson, discusses this further :-

Finding Your Creative Element Takes Tenacity and Patience 

Not all of us are born knowing exactly what it is that we want to do. For instance, for years on end whilst at college, I carried on being involved at some level, in creative pursuits such as writing and music. This carried on right the way through to when I graduated at university ( with a Bsc Hons in Industrial Business Systems) and in fact bought more studio equipment a few months before I had to sit my final exams. So there was a weird sense of jekyll and hyde going on with regards to my future career choices, that were a necessity in order to survive and move forward in life.

At one point I was working nearly 16 hours in a day, just so I could do both my regular work (which for years was in I.T.), and I could 'make good' on the work where I was in my element. That's not cowardice, but pragmatism, and it's what a lot of people go through when they take a path that was once considered 'a bit offbeat', for want of an alternate phrase.

Nowadays, a whole generation has a very equal shot at being a creative person for a living. This has been greatly facilitated by the increased speed of internet access and the ease with which you can pursue your muse. Smartphones, tablets and laptops, are part of the fray that was once the sole preserve of the expensive top-end hardware and software ownership 'club', which in itself was exclusive to the pro-end market incumbents. Especially industries like music and film making.

Both music and film are all about subjectivity. What each of these mean to you, is entirely about your own interpretation, based on other experiences in your life prior or even during the first time you encounter them.
Music in particular, is something where mood and emotions can have an anchoring or residual effect even years down the line :-

The psychology of music: why mood and memory matter

Coincidentally, I was discussing this with a friend yesterday. In effect, exercising to music, cleaning the house or car to music and even working to music have a considerable mood-enhancing effect. Not only does it spur you onwards, but it compels you to finish the task at hand, too.

With regards driving, there have been various studies conducted as to what sort of music is optimal for driving. If you have a cursory peruse on the internet, you'll find access to various papers and reports on this, of which some are moving into the territory of interactive music where the speed and style of driving can affect the composition you're listening to. Volkswagen, for example, have been working on their 'play the road' app, and you can check out the results via the link.

Mood, feeling, and emotion are also words I think about when discussing colour. In the last few years, I've made more trips to paint stores than ever before as I've been redecorating. As a result, I've stood there many a time, hearing others espousing things like 'It needs to be more, less than that, more ice creamy'. At those times, I wish I'd had something like this to help me out :-

Is It 'Crimson' or 'Sangria' ? Consult The Colour Thesaurus

What a great way to get around colour charts and tones. Just print it out, and keep it on a wall or in a drawer.

Ultimately, whatever we do to make a living involves some level of creative thinking. That's when the metaphorical rulebooks we've ingested over the years in the name of education and life experiences, start to mutate into something completely different.

My way of seeing it is that creativity is a summation of all your moods, experiences and sensations to date, which then alchemically work their magic on all the more linear and logical methodologies you have also amassed in the same time period. The result is a dish or smorgasboard of ideas, which can be conceptualised and taken to fruition.

It's all food for thought. And I'm all for it.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Dave, Where's The Formula? ; Changing office design boosts productivity, Too much ambition & Evolution in the way we tweet.

Up to four days a week, I'm in an office space. This means that my surroundings will have an effect on me, wether consciously or subliminally.

Having spent a large portion of my working life in all kinds of working environments, I have a preference for well lit, more airier spaces. I'm not a small, cubicle-type person, which is an environment I've seen in many large corporations over the years. Thankfully, that style of working is being phased out, with a more natural or even homely ambience encouraged in the environment.

Ultimately, it's all in the name of getting the best out of the working day, from a morale and productivity perspective :-

The perfect workspace: How to design an office that boosts productivity

I'm all for a splash of colour, and a comfortable seat. I also like to have a window to the world and people to have the odd chinwag get the idea.

In effect, a warm, well lit room with provisions for seating and some form of technological connectivity are enough these days to create an office environment. I'm leaving out essentials such as ventilation provision and restroom ( toilet) facilities, as these are de rigeur. Having a kitchenette or breakout area is also a boon, and can provide that NLP ( neuro linguistic programming) flavoured 'stop-break', to walk into , away from the confined feeling of frustration your natural environment can bring, when feeling stuck with a problem. Even going for a walk can help you break away from the issue, as you've changed your physiological state as well as your surroundings. But more of that, at a later date.

Having a great office is conducive to helping you reach your goals, wether they be projects that need starting / finishing or even launching into a new business plan.

But sometimes our own ambitions can get in the way of attaining success :-

Is Your Ambition Holding You Back?

The irony of all this isn't lost on me. I've always been ambitious, but I was relentlessly ambitious for a decade, if not more. A few years ago, I made a decision to pull back and do less, which wasn't easy for someone who was so driven. But as this article states, I was too driven and the resultant feeling was one of 'not doing enough', even when I was working 14 hours a day. Sometimes it was even more than that. Not the best state of affairs; especially when it goes beyond a handful of months.

Everyone is different, but my own barometer for overkill, was that work was becoming everything in my life; both metaphorically and literally speaking. All my successes and failiures were hinged on results, so even a night out or a short break away were an ( I'm embarrased to admit this) unwelcome distraction from my goals and ambitions.  As already mentioned, I made changes, which were mostly lifestyle based and thankfully the transition went smoothly over a period of a few years.

If you're in a similar boat, with all the usual signs of perpetual tiredness, irritability and so on always within a few inches of your psyche, I'd recommend a 'time-out' short break at the very least. There really is no point hammering yourself into oblivion, and ending up with the blues even when you've done more than you should have. It takes courage to step back and stop when in the thick of it, but it can save your sanity, your health and ultimately your life. Especially if you then decide to make the changes necessary for better work/life balance.

With regards to change, social media useage has increased dramatically in the last five years. That's about a year less than I've been on twitter :-

Twitter changes: 20 hits and misses from the social network's history 

Looking at all the changes since 2009, twitter has made leaps and bounds in popularity as a networking platform. When I first opened an account on there in 2008, I was an avid ( and heavy) user of facebook. How times change, and it's to twitter's credit that it not only hung in there, but became an easier and smoother social media experience over time. At least for me, but then I prefer the quicker ( quirkier?) and shorter communicative style that it propagates. Hashtags, favourites and retweets are all part of the fun.

More importantly, It's allowed me to reach more people than I would have via some of the other networking platforms for these posts.This has allowed me to come into contact with helpful, vibey and intelligent people, who are on the same wavelength. The rest of it is, as already mentioned, a load of fun.

And it's fun that is the keyword when I think of work. From the general recounting of stories from days gone by, our parents' generation had a more sobering experience in the world of work. In essence then, we should be grateful that we can do anything from switching our chairs around, to a complete 'make it homely as possible' makeover in our working environments. That level of flexibility is there not just to make us work harder, but also to help us work smarter.

After all, if you're having a better time than before, whilst figuring out a multitude of problems and delivering the goods ( or services), then you're more likely to offer some added value to the solution(s), and the end product.

Think about it.

Monday 15 December 2014

Being on the internet is a journey; it's not the destination.

Most days, my eyes are open at 6:00 am. Then I get up anywhere from 6:30 onwards and spend 5 to 10 minutes outside just looking at the scenery (there's lots of trees, bushes and flora to take in) , breathing in the air and quietly observing the silence. This is then followed by 90 minutes of quiet yoga/meditation, after which it's the usual; Clean up and a shower, then I'm on with the day.

Like most people, a portion of my working day (sometimes, it's even the weekends) consists of a robust amount of internet activity. Some of it is creative work, which includes writing articles, reports, and conceptualisation/research for projects. The rest of it is a combination of social media, ad-hoc emails, the odd purchase/window shopping, and a smidgeon of what I call 'aimless /mindless surfing'. 

A dose of aimless / mindless surfing  is a good idea in my opinion; especially to break the boggle-eyed concentration that can result when you're focusing extremely hard on heavy-duty internet activity. But it's the fact that we need to distract ourselves, ironically whilst using the internet, which says to me that we're losing the idea of its original remit. We're treating it as the solution to everything on every level; it's akin to it becoming the only destination for all our needs or a 'one stop shop'. Just think about that for a moment.

Distraction is all too easy nowadays. Our consumption of social media and 'net based interaction is (at a well placed 'guesstimate'), at least  30% of our waking hours. This has well documented knock-on effects to our cognitive abilities on numerous levels, including our ability to relax or de-stress after prolonged useage. I've mentioned this before in another post here, which touches on the concept of 'net based burnout and faitgue . I'm fortunate that because of the yoga first thing, I don't feel so drained or 'shredded' anymore after about  3 continuous hours of useage. But something my father recently said, made me think a little more about the implications of this.

He basically iterated that the mass consumption of all this technology and gadgetry is taking over our lives. Now whilst I rightly argued that it's useage is necessary to a degree, he replied with :- 

'what exactly is everybody doing on there all the time?'. 

Make no mistake, my father isn't a 'tech illiterate' and uses email and surfs the internet himself, albeit sparingly. I think he follows this idea of being taken over, because he's observed a lot of people just hunched down as they're walking along, constantly swiping phones and so on, looking as if they're disconnected to the world around them. 

On a personal note, I do agree with some of his sentiment. For instance, I've first hand used a plethora of online dating sites, and I've found them to be fascinating at first. But after a while on there, I felt there was a bit of 'grass is always greener elsewhere' going on. This means you're constantly searching for something better, and sometimes you don't even know what that is. Just the plethora of options alone is enough to convince you to keep going, regardless of the outcome.

In essence, because of the swathe of faces and names available to click on, you tend not to ( or at least I haven't) go for the first option or stick to it, beyond a couple of dates; or even a first date, if you're not really 'feeling the love' for want of a better phrase. That's not conducive to long term stability with regards relationships and relating to each other in general. I'm exaggerating a little here, but you can see the side effects of having too much choice in this scenario. Consequently some of my friends are militantly anti-internet with regards to their personal lives. They hence tend to stay away from the 'net based dating experience, because the results from all kinds of search options when using them, are literally too overwhelming and confusing for them to deal with.

The other issue which has been bought up countless times, is the issue of digital privacy. We're all supposedly leaving this huge digital trail here, there and everywhere, which cannot easily (if it all), be removed from the web ecosystem. So where is all this data going? There are all sorts of theories on that front too, which go from government based indexing and monitoring, all the way to using that data to manufacture a slew of false identites. This goes into the further realms of fraud and hacker gangs and terrorist based data manipulation. It's almost enough to keep you away and put you off for life, if you think about it for too long.

In effect, this line of thinking just becomes a huge maze of what-ifs, which the further into it you go, becomes ever more obtuse and far fetched. With regards to the issue of information dissemination, the positives are that this leads to far greater transparency when dealing with people at many levels. Again, with regards fake identites and so on, a little bit of dilligence in that respect is easy to follow; if you don't know the person, then use a search engine. If you're still in doubt, check up with other people that you know may have a mutual connection. After that, it's your own discernment and judgement that makes the decisions.

Overall, I tend to look at the other positive aspects of internet useage instead; as a useful barometer, connector and decision making tool. For example, we're now equipped to find the best deal on something, the best fit, best colour and get things more or less exactly as we wanted them or dreamed them up, without leaving our chairs or sofas. That was unheard of twenty years ago.

This then leads on to a saving in time, money and energy, on a personal and even industrial level. Okay, so there has been a loss of manpower in certain old work environments as a result, with the most noticeable effect on  manual labour intensive workers ( eg :- robotic automation in the car industry), but this has had already been going on for 40 years or more.  To wit, I've not seen an influx of unemployed people litter the streets in the british provinces, let alone the capital, as a result of even more automation.  If anything, that's been down to poor strategic thinking and mismanagement along the line, coupled with other related market forces. So unless an environment is completely automated, then there's always going to be a need for a human element in the workflow chain, beyond sweeping a floor. There's still some way to go from having a robotic barista making your coffee, to having an entirely android workforce in a building whirring and sliding around in a perpetual ballet of perfection.  

Everyone now has a near inexhaustable level of access to words, pictures, video, sound and graphics, so they can be their own master or hero of disciplines, which twenty years ago would have been unheard of. Going through all of this information piecemeal would be impossible, due to the size, scope and complexity of it. But you can create ( and follow) your own journey through the world wide web, depending on whichever path you choose. And even that isn't necessarily linear. All roads on there will eventually lead to everywhere and somewhere, which can ironically be the one place you wanted to get to in the first instance.  

Like the unfurling, sprawling  nature of the world wide web, using the internet is a journey without a fixed destination or ending. But you can still decide how long and for which 'checkpoint' or destination you want to surf on it, thereby giving you the option (and the ability) to hop on and off, as and when required.

Wether you're using it for research, leisure or plesure, it is a valuable toolkit with a level of interactivity that has created a huge change in society. Ultimately however, it's the user who is always in charge of the whole experience, and has been for almost twenty five years.   Let's keep it that way, as much (and for as long) as possible. 

Only When I Laugh ; No degree doesn't mean you won't be happy, Keeping too busy & Money for old silicon rope

When you add up the number of years in education, what comes to mind? Is it a single figure? In which case I'll hazard a guess that you're still young enough to be a millenial. For most, a decade plus is likely the norm.

I've done the whole primary school, secondary, college, university journey, and gone beyond it in the name of work and also interests. Even as far back as the late 1990's when I graduated, having a university degree really meant something, in terms of leverage in the job market. But in the last decade or so, that's not as relevant anymore.

The rising cost of education, particularly in the UK, has put paid to the slew of pre-grads rushing to get entry into the university system every summer. And in some ways, that's not a bad thing. From my own memories of the initial foray into the job market, experience counts more than anything. More importantly these days, it appears that the younger contingent in the job market tend to be more mobile, not just in terms of location but also in terms of career switching and choices made.

For a generation, it could be argued that there is more of an emphasis placed on being happier at work :-

The 10 Happiest Jobs That Don't Require A College Degree. 

Looking at all these jobs also reminds me that none of these were obvious titles in job advertisements when I was fresh out of university. More importantly, there was a slight sense of overwhelming bewliderment when you graduated and walked into your first job. From then on in, you had to make real world choices, and not just rely on the memory of some analytical paradigms and theories to carry you though to the next year.

With our lives now seemingly becoming increasingly more packed in with activities that don't consitute what is known as 'downtime', there seems to be a different sort of overwhelm that occasionally comes upon us. Or maybe it's all in the mind? :-

The Cold, Hard Truth: You're Overwhelmed Because You Want to Be

It makes for pretty sobering reading in places, and I can confess to being quite obsessed with work at times. However, I think that everyone's idea of downtime is different. Although it can be seen of as passing the buck a little, we're all too engrossed with our smartphones, tablets and laptops, to really notice what we're missing. For example, I make it a rule to break my day up into chunks and have at least one day in the week where I'm NOT using interactive technologies as much, or even at all.

As an aside, I think we have become more unsociable in the physical sense, due to some subliminal level of dissatisfaction somewhere. That's because we're not getting the fuller 'reality based nourishment' from actual human interaction. I've talked about this at length before on here and in other places, so I won't recap in full. But it's safe to say that I chose to spend my off peak or 'downtime' time with other people actually talking to and engaging with them, rather than perpetually checking everything on a smartphone as often as possible. And ultimately it's good for the mind, body and soul.

Keeping grounded in the midst of all this technological maelstrom, is an essential act of survival these days. But in the past, the technology itself was sometimes buried deep into the ground, because it was felt to be the only way to dispose of it quickly and cheaply. Especially when the item in question, was a big mistake to make :-

You Can Buy a Buried E.T. Atari Cartridge for a Few Hundred Bucks

I'm too young to remember the sociological impact of the video game crash of 1983 . But I can remember that in the years afterwards a lot of gaming systems of the time (consoles) were reduced to silly amounts of money for retail. And E.T. on the atari 2600, was supposed to be the one game that broke the camel's back.

I've not had the pleasure ( or pain) of playing it , which isn't surprising considering how many copies Atari had buried into landfills, thereby preventing them reaching the shops. But there are a number of videos of the game on YouTube, which you can view at your own pleasure (or pain).

Speaking of pleasure and pain, I'm off to the gym later. That's all about a lot of effort, for a lot of reward, both over the short and long term.

Or is it the other way round?

Sunday 7 December 2014

Doing It Again / Keeping On ; The Edge Of Possibility, Bouncing Back From Failiure & 1000 poses in 360 degrees

Here's a confession and a half. I failed A Level Chemistry. Well, I didn't get a U (for ungraded), but I'm pretty certain that I got an E..or was it an F?

That's the thing about the past. Your memory of it tends to be quite skewed. 

The irony is, I can remember I'd started dating someone during my A level exams and I can even remember a jacket she used to wear when we'd meet. I can also remember my own style, with my hair coming down past my shoulders..and so on. Strange how the human mind works isn't it? All in all, I passed all my other exams, and it was a great summer.

Getting it wrong can prove costly, but without getting it wrong, we don't necessarily learn as much in life. To prove my point, I've improved at things where I've got it wrong, and had the courage to do it again ( dating, writing, music, cooking, exams etc).

And ironically I've had to learn more later, in the instances where I got it right the first time. My driving test was something I got right the first time, and then had to learn much more than I thought, as I started to drive on the roads. I'd say it took me another six or so months to become more confident as a driver after that.

Failing is therefore an essential part of our development :-

Facing The Edge Of Possibility

It takes a tremendous amount of self-belief, knowledge, hard work and courage to go off and start up your own venture. Wether it's starting life afresh or a initiating a new business, in a world where it seems fear and anxiety can be an overriding emotion (witness some of  the news channels for a dose of this any time of the day), having intiative and moving onwards and upwards can come with a number of strugglles to work through.

But as more people are rising to the challenge, we're seeing a greater number of entrepreneurs and self-starters than ever before.That in itself, no matter what the eventual outcome, is always a good thing.

Older and wiser, Richard Branson also has a few words to say about failiure. Especially about moving on from it. :-

Richard Branson on Bouncing Back From Failure

Branson is the archetypal self-starter. He's gone from being 16 and setting up his own magazine, to setting up a highly lucrative and successive business empire, which was founded on the backbone of virgin records. A man who has made the most of his luck and opportunities, he has also recently offered Led Zeppelin a very large sum of money to reform.

All in all, he's remarkably resilient and not averse to taking risks, which is something that I've always felt is key to succeeding in life. Sometimes you just have to take a bigger leap of faith than you normally would, in order to get further ahead. That is something that depends on your own internal make-up, drives and aspirations.

Luck, karma and/or blessings does play a part in this, but it could be argued that you attract these things as you move towards your goal. I've found that when I'm moving in the right direction in terms of a project or goal, wether it's personal or professional ( are both are intertwined? discuss), then everything just seems easier to do and flows more smoothly and dymanically.

Speaking of speed, these days most of us tend to either quickly smile or just keep as motionless as possible, if we're photographed ad hoc by a smartphone camera or similar. You point, click, have a look-see, send it to the incumbents if necessary ( i.e. if they've asked for a copy), and you're off.

Of course, the whole 'selfie' concept has now been taken to mindblowing extremes with all sorts of memes and 'duck face' lampoons and imitative comedy going viral on the internet. But what if you were asked to pose in as many different ways as possible, over a much longer and continuous period of time? :- 

Supermodel Coco Rocha Strikes 1,000 Poses In 360 Degrees In This Encyclopedia Of Posing

Rocha has already done a variation on this in a video where she posed 50 times in 30 seconds . Not an easy feat , and I'd probably start corpsing ( laughing), after about the third or fourth pose. So the challenge of keeping a straight face and performing to demonstrate 1000 different masquerades of expressivity, isn't for the unitiated.

Come to think of it, I probably pull about four different expressions as I'm getting dressed. Maybe I could get to about 20 if I include chosing the footwear and socks. Then of course, there's all the unintentional posturing one goes through when eating, not to mention time spent with friends, family, dating and..

time out.

Put Your Hand In A Passing Wave ; New film soundtrack on cassette, Consumerism & Lego used to recreate movie scenes

From my early teens to about my late 20's, I used to regularly buy a brand of cassette tape for backups of my vinyl albums and cd's. This was done to facilitate playback on my various Walkman's, and then later for the stereo cassette player in whichever car I had at the time.

There was a weird sort of payoff when you did this, as in your mind you knew you were degrading the quality of the signal, but you got a level of portability that neither vinyl nor cd could give you; car cd autochangers had a few more years to arrive yet. Of course by 2001, that became a thing of the past as mp3's and the variety of  digital music codecs became widespread within a few years.

However, there's always room for a (sort of) revival :-

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack will be released on cassette tape

Best get those walkman's and cassette/ radio players at the ready for this. From a technical perspective, I'm curious as to what type of tape they've used. I wonder if it's Chrome, Metal Oxide or..? 

Buying into a dream or the premise of a better existence, is a part of our lives en masse. We all look to see what we can get out of our existing array of clothes, shoes, gadgets and so on. More importantly, we're all wanting and needing things that we don't always have time to use.

I used to see friends of mine just buy up the latest gadgets and designer jackets and jeans all the time, then hardly every use them; they'd even leave the price tags/tickets on the apparel, as they loitered in their wardrobes, for months on end. I'd laugh at this, until I realised I'd started to do this myself. Then I knew it was time to start scaling back and I also went on a 'get rid of it' spree, which entails selling on ebay and giving things away to charity shops.

Consumerism is the name given to the constant need to buy, spend and amass more of everything :-

Thought-Provoking Video Explains How Consumerism Has Taken Over Our Lives

A sobering and thought provoking issue here, is that there are record levels of debt in the UK due to our penchant for 'the latest, the shiniest and the sleekest'. Exact figures vary, but the proliferation of 'fast loan' companies in the last few years is the greatest indicator of spending gone out of control. Some of the quoted APR rates by these firms, are close to 2000%.  That's both extraordinary and shocking.

It's easy to lay the blame for increased costs of living on the escalating prices of fuel and food, but that's an incomplete picture when looked at it more logically. Technology and marketing have both come a long way in the last 15 years, and they're almost bedfellows in how they're harnessing each other, in order to reach wider audiences.

Furthermore, the internet is faster than ever and continues to grow in speed and reliability across all manner of devices. This means more opportunities to 'push market' and 'direct sell' even whilst you're about to send that text, email or phone call on your smartphone. The obvious solution would be to switch all advertising off on your browser and phone applications, but it's not as readily available as a drop down menu option.

The other solution, is to use paid versions of applications for an ad free experience and also to switch out the advertising options each time you see them, if they're an unwelcome distraction. Ultimately, the decision is a personal one as to wether you are or can be affected by all this to the level that you just have to buy whatever it is you see, due to the visual bombardment of the item via an ad campaign. Exercising self- restraint and selectivity can do a lot for your bank balance and credit score in the long run. That's something my parents' generation were far better at doing than a lot of us currently are.

My father certainly wasn't a fan of being in debt for too long, and he still remains that way to this day. As he still iterates, survival and building a nest were the most  important for him back then. Coming from a foreign country with hardly anything in his pocket and just a lot of love and well-wishes from friends and family, he knew no one would bail him out if he'd fiscally fallen into a hole. Furthermore, the lack of easily available goods/services on instant credit terms, are what saved them from the currently mentioned cycles (and traps) of deep debt.

In essence, there's a lot to be said for drive, determination and prudence. Buying something that feels like it's more of a treat, rather than regularly being 'in the red' to satiate a momentary feeling, has more of a longer term satisfactory feeling built into the experience in my opinion.

Something that we don't see too much of these days, is children beyond a certain age playing with lego. I had a set when I was 6 years old, and it was my pride and joy until I was about 9 or 10. Then electronic games took over, which lead to my interest in computing and technology. Yet the days of lego are still fondest and warmest in my childhood memories :-

An Adorable Stop-Motion LEGO Animation Featuring 13 Recreated Movie Scenes

It's refreshing to see the level of work that has gone into this, and it reminds me of the local library play areas which are stocked up with lego bricks. Kids love lego, and rightly so. It's one of the best hand/eye coordination toy sets available in my opinion, and also encourages them to use their imagination to the fullest. I can remember it being more of a boy's toy experience in retrospect, but times have changed and there is a more fuller range of add-on bits and packages etc, which may be more appealing to both sexes.

It's fascinating to see how even though time has marched onwards, the pace of life seems quicker by comparison. Wether that's due to the full on effect of  the 'infotainment age' as I like to call it, with our perpetual need to be connected to the internet in some way or just a feeling that everything is running faster overall, is debatable. It just seems that more things are happening all of the time, whereas even a decade ago, 'stuff' was going on, but there wasn't such a constant buzz of activity en masse.

Looked at from a macro perspective, the internet and our connectivity to it is responsible to some extent. We're always communicating or on the verge of communicating. It's as if by not saying something, we'll be missing out. That needs to be worked on, and in the same way that it's good to go back to what happened before, with a view to being inspired by retrospect, it's also as good, if not greater, to stop and just smell the roses now and then. Cassette tapes needed to be wound forward and backward, which takes up time. And lego still takes a handful of minutes to set up, before you can be building and creating something with it.

In effect, you wouldn't have any way of filling that time, other than with silence. Unless of course, the t.v. or radio were on as a background accompaniment.  It was mostly a quiet period of construction, contemplation and innovation. That's when you'd get things done. And it'd be the same with board games, or getting a sketch or notepad out. You wouldn't have any distractions or more specifically, you wouldn't allow yourself to be distracted. Even if others were in the room, it'd be an unobtrusive ambience at best.

That's pretty close to how I still get more things done to this day. Once the noise levels are reduced to soft background musing or even silence, it's remarkable how much the mind just zones in to concentrate. Even if it's just for an hour, you can just forge ahead in some strange cosmic 'flow'.

It's almost like being in a meditative yet highly productive state. And that's the best place to be for any kind of work.