Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Learn & Share As You Go; You Are Capable Of Eventual Mastery

Two questions :-

1) Do you know it all?

&

2) Do you share any of what you do know?

For those of you who think I'm close to losing the plot due to the aforementioned questions, I'm being sarcastic with regards to the first one. However, irrespective of wether you actually do indeed feel you know it all ( I salute you, if you do), it's likely you are sharing some of it at any given moment. That's unavoidable.

Even if you're not contributing to a discussion, by your very presence as a listener you are contributing via your presence. You're listening, observing and absorbing ( to some degree), what's going on around you. So in effect, you're also learning something, even though you may not be consciously doing so.

That's how a lot of behaviours, tastes, styles and paradigms are formed. It's also how they're changed. Subtle, smaller shifts and seemingly random morcels of information, can create rapid movements sociologically. This knocks onto fashion, technology, business, politics, music, and ultimately spearheads innovatory concepts that create even greater changes.

In effect, you're learning as you go along. Even a harvard MBA learns as he or she goes along. I've yet to meet someone who doesn't need to learn anything anymore. That's not the same as being unwilling to learn , for we all reach those points in life where for a myriad of reasons, we can't or won't want to absorb anything else anymore.

Otherwise, we learn and we grow, and the best part is that we can master what we know. You don't always need a certification to prove this, and it won't necessarily put you on to the fortune 500 list. But it will improve your understanding of something in your life, and permeate into the rest of your life, per se. Your environment and the way you see it and react to it, will be the proof of this. Think about it.

Learning and being open to learn, helps you master things quickly. Even when you think you've done it all and seen it all, being open to learning about alternatives or even something completely different, can lead you to greatness. It can  also save you from feeling stuck in a well-worn thought train or thinking loop, in order to find solutions.

Now just in case you do know it all, I better get a metaphorical pad of paper and a pen. Cause I'm all for learning more than I already know. You'll be surprised as to when a seemingly random piece of information can come in handy, wether in or out of it's original context.

I'm all for it.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Giddy Up-Up! The Real Secret To Productivity ,What's In Your Creative Bag? & 5 Rules For Making An Impact

The first part of the title of this post came from watching a blooper reel from a well known show. In fact, it is arguably one of the most successful comedy shows in history; the show was called Seinfeld.

The outtake started with Kramer ( played by Michael Richards) saying that very line.  It all went downhill after that, in the funniest way imaginable. The momentum of the scene was quoshed by a very literal technical problem. C'est la vie.

When it comes to work, maintaining your pace and state of play can be an issue over long stretches of time. But there are ways around this :-

The real secret to productivity.

All the methods listed within the article are valid and workable ( pun intended). My own take on this, is that I work much better when I get up even half an hour earlier and get into the more cerebral aspects of working AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. This post, for example, was mentally sketched out in rough form by 9am.

Because I was already 'in the zone' mentally whilst eating my breakfast and then showering up, I was in 'ready to go!' mode from the minute I walked into my office. In fact, I was literally champing at the bit to just start typing. I Just wanted to get it all written down in some form , minimising the urge to stop and edit too much along the way.

The 'go for it!' philosophy works a treat when you're inspired, and can have the courage to put aside the 'what if's' or doubts about why you're doing it, for long enough to get it done. It's a creative mindset, and can apply to other avenues and outlets too :- 

What's in your creative bag?

Times have changed enough for anyone to start a film, make an album, make a video, start a company..you name it, within hours of coming up with an idea. That obviously means there's a ton of stuff that has to defeat the law of averages with regards to success in each field. But the rate of change, coupled with the 'hive mind' effect, produces larger ripples and impacts , than ever before. As a result, the 'doing' part of the equation is where the energy is expedited in increasing numbers.

That wouldn't have been possible 10 or 15 years ago, due to the lack of internet based tools and technology , which have been facilitating this in recent times. Social media wasn't on the map, and for all the controversy and subsequent discourses it has facilitated in the last few years (e.g :- loss of privacy, unauthorised data mining and sharing etc) , it's had a lot of positive effects on business and integrated systemic thinking ( the 'hive mind' effect once again).

Admitedly I've had my share of nonsense on there and it's swings and roundabouts, depending on what and how you interact with the networks and the people within. But there's more good than bad available from the experience(s), if you're smart enough to work with it and keep your integrity and authenticity in check, when communicating and interacting. 

Not wanting to complain and just getting on with it, is a philosophy that this lady has embraced wholeheartedly :-

Tina Roth Eisenberg; don't complain, create.

I agree with Tina, wholeheartedly. I wish I could be a part of a team that looked as fun. That's also something I'm working on, as it's good to have a 'gang' to work and hang out with.

And on that note, I'm starting to champ at the bit because I'm starving. I didn't have the patience to make myself a proper breakfast, so I'm now wondering wether I should have a big snack, or wait another few hours and have a heavy lunch. But then that would mean I'd have to..

yadda yadda yadda.

I'll stick it out till lunch. I've got to do minor tweaks to a number of other things, and give this the once-over, too

Unless of course, YOU want to buy me lunch? In which case..

*looks for keys*

You Can Use It If You Really Want ; Musk sattelite, Solar bike paths & 8 pieces of internet advice

Most of us access the internet via a wi-fi link in a building, wether a house or a flat,  or using our smartphones. We've gotten used to the access 'on tap' of all our web-based communication needs, at any time of the day. I always notice this when I travel abroad and if there isn't a strong signal in the vicinity, I cannot access emails or my social media accounts. I then have to wait to get back to my hotel, and connect in to the wi-fi network in the building. That can sometimes be more trouble than it should, with hotel reception not always knowing the newer passwords and so on. But all said and done, it's good to have the ability to link up and connect anywhere in the world.

That's something which may well be on Elon Musk's mind, too :-

Elon Musk planning satellite 'constellation' to deliver Internet access

Musk is a man on a mission. Or a series of missions, if you peruse the internet. The man behind Paypal and now Tesla, is always striving onwards to innovate and execute as rapidly as possible. And having a cluster of small sattelites, which he may not be directly involved in the development of, is an interesting way to eradicate the complex looms of wiring and fibre optic we currently have.

It also occured to me that he could break a sort of covert monopolisation of the current phone networks, on whom the ISP'S ( internet service providers) are entirely dependant upon, in order to provide the first physical point of contact in a network. By using a non-invasive, orbiting system of what are essentially high powered 'master routers and switches' which will pipe directly to any device WITHOUT ( hopefully), needing a phone line connection, he has also done away with the need to dig up more roads and other areas, to lay down more cabling. So there's also a potential environmental benefit, to go with it. God willing this will all work out, as I can't wait to have full speed access on tap, without the need for reliance on ( in the UK, as of writing this), additional and costly phone network bolt-on charges if mobile, as that's the only way you can have it fuss-free right now, 24 hours a day, at your convenience.

Being environmentally friendly is something that doesn't always come easy to any of us, whilst on our daily commute. Getting from A to B usually involves some form of polluting transport system, wether it's driving our own cars or on buses and taxis. But this isn't always the case. There's always  a choice to be cycling your way around a place. And in the Netherlands, they do this more than anywhere else :-

Not Surprisingly, The Netherlands Is The First Country To Launch A Solar Bike Path

Up to 70% of all journeys in Amsterdam are made by bike. That's amazing. So it's understandable that with this in mind, they've decided to come up with this hybrid concept. A remarkable achievement and whilst it's still at an early test stage, I can see it becoming a de-rigeur scenario quite easily. Yet I'm still trying to get my head around the aforementioned percentage of bike journeys in the capital, quoted in the article. No wonder it's one of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly cities in the world. The populace have clearly embraced the idea of being educated about global concious living, more than anywhere else.

Education and the willingness to learn new things, is something I've always been up for. Even as I've gotten older and seen more things fall by the wayside, I can put my occasional cynicism aside in order to find out more about the concept and idea behind the product(s) or services.

However, not everyone wants to embrace innovation with the same zeal :-

8 Pieces of Advice and Wisdom Regarding the Internet From Ann Landers

The late Mrs Landers clearly had a large bee in her bonnet about the internet. Some of her advice is valid, but the rest is fairly misplaced. Perhaps if she'd have lived long enough to see social media in full flow, she may have changed her opinion of it. Having said that..well, maybe not.

The internet is here to stay. That in itself is unquestionable. But in order for us to keep on using it, and keep our planet and it's resources in check, means we all have to think a little before consuming it all to the levels we have done.  Up until now, the knock-on effects haven't been unmanageable . But in the future? That's a different ballgame to quantify.

 The Elon Musk concept of sattelites providing 'net access, will potentially do away with a lot of cable and pipework based pollution. But the rest of it is up to us. Bike paths, wether solar panelled or otherwise, are a great start. And electric cars are a workable, win-win scenario, too. Now we just need to figure out how we can consume a little less, yet still feel happier and more importantly, feel like we're still THRIVING.

Looking after ourselves doesn't feel like a chore, as we've become more savvy to the pleasures and pitfalls of various lifestyles due to the amount of information freely available,  regards to the benefits and consequences of them. Yet looking out for our planet and its environment, can feel like hard work. That's the side of the equation that needs to be rebalanced.

Just like the wheels on a bicycle, the evolutionary cycles of this planet need to keep on turning freely, so we can too.


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Everything You Think You Can Leave Behind; It's all about data

Information is king. Information is also the way forward, in order to monetise and educate the masses. But don't take my word for it. Think about how much time you actually spend gathering, sorting, assessing or even just reading words and sentances. Unless you're a staunch luddite, I'll hedge my bets that you're swiping or are about to swipe your phone or tablet at least once in the next few hours. Either that, or you're about to hit the internet at least once today.

If you're not getting paid to do this, even at a secondary level as part of your vocation, you're indirectly paying someone else for it. The ISP ( internet service provider) whom you pay a regular monthly subscription fee to, for the priviledge of providing a gateway to the world wide web, is making money off your need and desire to be more globally connected at your own level of congruence. And that's just the basic level. The myriad of ways to monetize information on the internet are longer than either of my arms. Just enter 'making money using the internet' into a search engine, and have a look for yourself.

Peter Drucker, who knew a thing or ten about information and the power inherent within it, knew about this many years ago :-

What Peter Drucker Knew About 2020

Drucker was way ahead of the game and he highlights what I've referred to above, with pinpoint accuracy. The only concern on the horizon, is the variable notions of a 'post capitalist society', with many already predicting a doom-laden scenario of depleted resources. This is then coupled to a bored, dissafected and ultimately ignored, larger ex-workforce based population. As mentioned before, it won't get to the point of 'zombied drones', as man is ultimately at the helm of all this change in a direct and controlled manner.

Until A.I. (artificial intelligence), gets to the stage of making intelligent and consistently reliable decisions for us acrosss the board, then I cannot envisage the human race putting themselves out of useful productivity en masse, for the sake of innovation and progress. That's just cashing in on self-sabotage AND self-defeat, which aren't good reasons to do anything in life. Especially something brand new.

And it's from the old and to the new, that the director of the federal bureau of investigation, is having a call to arms:-

FBI director demands access to private cell phone data

I'm on and off the fence on this issue. The trouble is that whatever trapdoor is built into a system for one party to enter from, another entity ( i.e. anyone else) who has a hacker mentality will also be able to do the same, either sooner or later.

On the other hand, the real threats of terrorism are not to be sniffed at, but the irony is that up until now, not one threat which then became action in the last decade, has been thwarted with any other level of surveillance that the authorities have at their disposal. So it's quite remarkable that even more access to pirvate data is required. Having said that, at least the request is now more public, which is progress. Especially in the light of security related revelations in the last few years, with more data monitoring results and rationale being spilled into the public eye, via all sorts of  internet ( and otherwise) based groups. If that's anything to go by, then we're heading into a newer time of clearer communications and transparency, and that's surely a good thing.

As mentioned earlier, A.I. or artificial intelligence is also a useful idea. It allows many devices to accurately second-guess a swathe of activity. From setting your living room to the correct temperature, light and even sonic ambience in time for your arrival from work, to calculating the best route to the airport from your house with concurrent traffic positions  in mind, A.I. has a lot of benefits therein.

But can it also be a menace? Elon Musk thinks so :-

Tesla boss Elon Musk warns artificial intelligence development is 'summoning the demon'

There's a certain sense of irony to all of this. Musk is another pioneer (he put together Paypal) and innovator ( he invented The Tesla Electric Car), and his reliance and belief in the power of technology is unquestionable. But the issue of surveillance comes up yet again. Now that's something that sticks in my throat as well.

Just to clarify, I'm not against all the CCTV cameras we have all over the place in cities and towns. That is put in place to save lives, and prevent further damage to infrastructural elements ( e.g. monuments, buildings, parks, etc)  But I do have a problem with the data being potentially sold off and/or manipulated in an 'out of context' useage, without my consent. That level of 'blind profiteering' isn't new, but it's been ramped up hugely since social media exploded in size, in the last five or so years.

On a related note, I haven't actively used my facebook account in some time. I have no idea what is going on there, as I've lost my original login info, which then I changed slightly and have switched to another phone since then.

It also occoured to me the other day, that I haven't recieved a single nonsensical advertising/ data mining type message ( and phonecall) on my smartphone in a long while. It could be sheer coincidence, but it's funny (actually it's a relief) how this has all happened after I just abandoned my account on there for a while. In any event, I'm happier and the show must go on.

Whilst we're all certain that social media and technology have united to push the frequency and need to communicate beyond our once normal social boundaries, there is a need for self-regulation. The increased willingness with which we swipe our smartphone screens, tap on the tablets and peer into our laptops over the last decade, has meant that we're giving away a lot more information without recourse to consequences on our own personal boundaries.

It could be argued that  it's now near pointless to assume that you have any real privacy left if you're on a cluster of social networks; after all, they are designed for self-promotion as well as communication. But what you leave behind will potentially remain there forever somewhere, wether out in the open or hidden on a data mining repository system.

See, you can't just tear up web pages or old posts where you've embarrased yourself in a group chat about some t.v. show and so on, and throw them in an incinerator or shredder. And even old email accounts you had, with those coded lovespeak messages to your boyfriend or girlfriend via your smartphone, are sitting somewhere like a jack-in-the-box, never losing it's 'spring season', so to speak.

Ultimately, it's more common sense than caution, that prevails over the internet. After all, if you wouldn't communicate like that in real life, then think extremely hard as to why you'd want to do it on the 'net, BEFORE hitting the enter key.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Doing Nothing.. Is that actually a choice?

When I've been feeling stuck in a situation, somewhere in life, I tend to get frustrated. This level of frustration can then tend to generate a sensation of ennui. You feel foggy, a bit worn down and just needlessly boxed in. However, it doesn't last.

I don't like to mither and wallow in the aforementioned state for too long. For me, it's usually a sign that something needs to change. Now not having being born with the sort of powers that are bequeathed to superheroes ( or heroines)  in order to change the universe ( would anyone want that sort of power..I mean, really?), which would involve a lot of cosmic responsibility and time-and-space type decision making at the drop of a hat, all I can change in the first instance, is..myself.

In the midst of something, towards the end of a journey, and even at the start of a new venture or enterprise, you have to posses a willingness to embrace change. It doesn't mean you have to lose your entire being or sense of 'you' in the process; that may happen anyway, over a long period of time. But it beats doing nothing.

With this in mind, what's doing nothing mean for you? Is it remaining in status quo, hoping someone else will do something about the situation? Is it ignoring the signs that you need to do something to change the situation? Or that maybe there might be something YOU can do, to change the situation for the benefit of others and YOURSELF, but you can't and/or won't do anything about it?

Ask yourself the following. When something is stuck, or going wrong in a situation, are you willing to point it out? Are you willing to help alleviate it? Are you willing to point the way out or at the very least just say 'hey..maybe we can do this another way?' If that's you, then you're the kind of person who cares. You'll be fine. Because you'll know ahead of the others, that the road is going to curve hard and that it's time to switch lanes or at the very least, start to press the brakes NOW.

It doesn't matter if you can't or won't be able to convince everyone. That's not always the point. The point is, that if you can make a difference starting with YOURSELF first, then you've leapt more hurdles than many others.

Do something else today. Learn something different. Try another way of doing the same or similar things you do regularly. If you already do this, then I (half) apologise for reminding you.  If you don't, then do it now.

For wether you do anything or not, change happens anyway.

Think about it.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Past, Present Or Future - Where are you?

On the face of it, the answer to a question such as that posed in the title, would be obvious. You're in the here and now, right? But have a look around your immediate environment..is there anything in the room that is 'of the now'?

Design and innovation, like fashion, are actually quite cyclical. It could even be argued that the two are interlinked, over a spread of time :-


Two venn iterations of the theme, earlier today. Which one of these resonates with YOU?



Think of the ipod; what does it immediately resemble, in terms of functionality? A walkman, and a walkman was borne out of the idea of having a more personalised portable cassette player, so the music and/or other audio material playing therein, was solely confined to the listener. And that in itself, it could be argued, was an offshoot of having a portable radio or record player.

So the past is an obvious reference for moving forward when innovating, but where does the future come into play? That's an easier concept to grapple with, as we can consider exemplifying this with something that has been around for over 100 years and has been refined on a continual basis; it's the motor car.

Fuel efficiency, safety - both internal passenger protection and exterior impact strength - comfort and even entertainment systems and levels have all been refined, updated, modified and completely redesigned over the years. All these things are ultimately the sum total of the motor car experience. Just think back to even a decade ago ( or further if you can), and look at the cars of today; some of the innovation and redesign ( or even NEW design) changes and concepts are remarkable. More importantly, they dovetail and fit nicely into the zeitgeist.

In effect, anything new, bar the invention of the wheel, has some reference point to the past in it. As for the present..that in itself is a summation of past experiences which affect the individual or teams/groups in situ, with some accidental or subconscious 'thread' or connection to the future. The present is where the 'eureka moments' happen. And it's those moments that can solve problems and quench the hankering of a better way to do something, or even be something.

Having practised yoga and meditation for four years ( and counting) on a daily basis, my take on the present is that it's all about the stillness within. That stillness in itself, provides the seeds for what to do next. But the stillness has to be savoured, and that means letting go of whatever is on your mind. Sounds easier said than done, but it can be done and once it is practiced on a regular basis, it becomes habit forming and keeps your thought trains (and tracks) clearer and smoother.

Innovation could be said to be borne out of restlessness, which in itself could be said to be part of the human condition. In effect, we're never satisfied for long enough, so we need something to bring us up to a satiated state. Maybe if we chase the quenching less, the ideas, solutions and eureka moments would be easier to obtain.

There's an NLP ( neuro linguistic programming) scenario I always remember, which is about 'changing state'. In effect , if you leave the environment you're in, you change your own physical state too. The obvious example, is to be stuck on an idea or concept in a warm room, with a cup of coffee, and then leave the room and maybe even the building, to go outside for five minutes to grab some air. The synaptic refresh and even recalibration, will help you reframe whatever it is you've been trying to figure out. Try it.

So in order to be in the present, whilst ameliorating the past and moving into the future, it's all about letting it go, and allowing it to flow.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Turning Keys, Unlocking Doors; How To Find A Mentor, Stop Working So Hard & Making a logo from scratch

As I look back over the last few decades of my life, which is something you can do once you're no longer in your 20's, I think of the moments I made some heavy duty decisions regards the next direction(s) to go in.

Sometimes it seemed that there was no one available to guide me. Maybe that's unfair as there were people around, but I didn't deem them to be available enough or experienced enough to point me in the right direction or provide me with the level of advice I needed. That could be plain and simple pride, or just a general lack of any real expertise in the vicinity.

All of this was before the internet became what it is today, and in fact we were just on the cusp on moving over to broadband speeds, if I remember correctly. The difference that makes, is that you can find your own answers on the internet today, to most questions you have via the search engines. But nothing can beat the warmth and emotive guidance another person can potentially bring to the table. In short, I needed a mentor at those times and it's hindsight that provides you with the clarity of  why you made the decisions you did, together with the challenges some of those decisions presented to you.

Fortunately, I became more willing to ask for help as I moved into my thirties and have some wonderful friends who can provide some great guidance and emotional support too, when needed. Having that support can make a tremendous amount of difference :-

This Is Why You Don't Have a Mentor

Try not to be mislead by the title, as it's about finding a mentor, rather than NOT being able to be mentored. In effect, you have to remain open and be willing to recieve the guidance and ( most importantly) actually APPLY IT to your situation or problem at hand. Feedback is also an essential part of the process and on a personal level, I've always given back to my mentors in the form of gifts and lunches, dinners and so on. For me, that keeps a level of karmic flow going, so there's a sense of balance; what goes around does indeed come back around.

All work and no play, as the saying goes, makes for a dull jack or jill. Doing nothing but work, can cause other problems too :-

10 Reasons to Stop Working So Hard

I wouldn't wish what happened to Mita Diran on anyone. If that isn't an absolute warning to 'kick back and slow down a little', then I don't know what it is. Overwork and the compulsion to work endlessly and (supposedly) tirelessly is something that has become a mainstream cultural issue. In the last forty years, ironically with the 'make life easier' exponential leaps in technological innovation, it seems we're working longer hours than our parents' generation ever did. It also seems that we're sleeping less and  taking more days off for sickness. A quick peruse of the internet should solidify the aforementioned assumptions, to avoid any doubt.

In short, we're working harder but not necessarily smarter. On top of this, combined with lack of sleep, higher stress rates and a more sedentary lifestyle, our diets are potentially not as healthy anymore either. Fortunately ( in the UK at least), there is a culutral adressing of these issues via reminding people using advertising campaigns to give up smoking, eat better and so on. This is then enforced with the introduction of  pragmatic remedies and solutions, such as herbal and homeopathic systems and solutions, etc .

There has also been a widespread increase in gyms and leisure centres in the last decade and some workplaces actively encourage fitness with on-site exercise facilities and healthier options at the workplace canteen. All the aforementioned, plus the proliferation of yoga and meditation classes and centres, can provide ample opportunity for everyone to participate in their own ability to rebalance themselves, should they be feeling some level of burnout.

And certain tasks, such as the ability to design something new, aren't going to be done in a hurry. Especially if you're not organised and are already tired or burned out :-

Watch a Designer Who Really Knows What He's Doing Create a Logo From Scratch

Aaron Draplin is a marvel. I loved the 'get real' approach of the video, which comes through even though there's been post-production to smooth and massage it all out. I also loved the way his archive material and previous works are around him in a state of 'organised chaos'. I can relate to that somewhat. You have all the bits that you need around you, in an organised state that you have set up, but to the untrained eye it may appear that everything is in a constant state of disarray. That's the whole vibe and that's how ( to my mind, at least), you get all sorts of inspiration on a constant basis. A lot of that works at a subliminal level, and if it gets in the way or becomes too 'in your face', there's always the old NLP trick of disappearing into a totally different environment to clear your mental space and get on with the job.

A lot of what we do in the name of work, rest and play, comes from our inner states. This is both conscious and subconscious, with both interweaving a path in and out of each other's realms. On a personal level, I've produced better work when I've not been in a lot of turmoil or the cliche'd 'tortured artist' mode. But everyone is different, and I will say that creating art of whatever sort, is a kind of purging. It's also a sharing of your gifts, talents and abilities with those in the world you chose to share it with. That's not always easy, but then how far or how much you share is something that once it leaves your hands, is in the hands of others.

And it's in the hands of others that art flourishes and thrives or gets left by the wayside. I'd like to believe in the former more than the latter. That's because I know how much heart and soul energy can go into a piece of work. Sometimes this is downplayed and other times it's ramped up.

Ultimately luck, karma and blessings have a part to play in all this, too. I may be a minority in thinking that, but looking at the people I've admired and respected over the years as high achievers, I think that's not the case at all. Thank god for that.

What Can You Tell Them? ; 15 things an entrepreneur does, Reconnect with yourself & Banner blindness

I've got more than 900 cd's and over 200 slabs of vinyl. There's nothing unusual in that, as I love music. But cause of the amount of time I've spent making music both live and in a production ( or studio) environment, I tend to listen to music in a different way than the average music fan. In effect, I cannot help but listen out for little details here and there, and all this is done without having to think about it. It's ingrained and  operates on a subconscious level.

The same goes for work, too. You tend to have habits that are unique to you :-

15 Things I Do as an Entrepreneur That Most People Might Not

If you're working in any capacity, wether self employed or for others ( or a combination of both), you'll invariably tend to have habits that are unique to yourself. More importantly, as the article suggests, you'll listen without intent and hopefully without prejudice, during feedback sessions. These can be 'live' via customer interaction ( depending upon the business, e.g. retail), or second-hand via your staff and co-workers, etc. But ameliorating incoming information is ESSENTIAL to effective workflow and improving the quality of output.

For example, if companies are sending out surveys, which I get a number of in email form after ordering something online, then they should do it sooner rather than later. The rationale being that people tend to have gone cold, to the point that may have even forgotten a large portion of their engagement experience online ( e.g.shopping), as time goes on.

If you are working for yourself, then you'll be familiar with the occasional feeling of being 'up to your neck in it', so to speak. But if this is becoming a more common way to spend your time, then perhaps you need to have a rethink :-

Up to Your Eyeballs in Work? Reconnect With What You're In It For. 

It's a cliche'd thing to say, but if you're solely in it just for the money, then perhaps you have lost your way. I could think of at least three other ways to make more money right now, but neither of them would give me long term satisfaction or happiness. That's why you become self-employed in the first instance. You have a vision of your life being more 'in your own hands' and of your own making. If that seems to be a losing battle, which is more about spending time firefighting just to get bills paid or it's just not fulfilling anymore for whatever reason, then something somewhere has gone askew. Bar a general disconnect with being able to make a living out of your concept or vision per se, then a scheduled 'time out' to re-assess things should help you get back on track.

Running a business and potentially running yourself into the ground in the process, isn't something for cissies. It isn't for anyone, in fact and I wouldn't recommend a lengthy period of pulling in six or seven day working weeks, without taking any sort of break.

In the same way, I suspect that internet marketing teams would be having a rethink about using certain forms of online advertising, these days :-

Banner Blindness: How to Get the Ultimate Users Attention

When was the last time you clicked on a banner ad? It's probably less often than used to be the case. The solution proferred in the article is quite novel, but I suspect that it relies on a bit of unintentional 'click slippage' on the users' part, in order to be trully effective. Either that, or your now backdrop-banner is so cleverly rendered, that it genuinely does entice a user to click on it. But how many times will that be?

Interactvitiy is the key word to getting more effective user engagement on your marketing campaign. That means a lot more time, energy and money invested in the first instance.

In the same vein, most of what we forget, we tend to have taken for granted at some point, cause it served us to obtain that knowledge in order to perform more effectively. Or the alternative, which is that our interest in the information and/or subject, started to diminish over time due to a lack of enthusiasm and recall/ useage.

Wether it's the former or the latter, we owe it to ourselves to reconnect with our passions and inner core, as often as possible. That makes dealing with challenges and opportunities in our working lives, a clearer and more fruitful process both now, and in the future.

Friday, 10 April 2015

What Is Art In Today's Digital Age?

A few years ago, I took a break from my creative endeavours, which back then included writing, programming & composing music, and spent the extra time on catching up with everything ( and everyone) else in length and depth. This also involved a generous amount of travel, which allowed me to reassess and re-evaluate many things in my life. Especially my attitude to work, and the challenges that could present in your day to day existence.

In effect, I was prone to an alternative rendering of the workaholic’s dilemma; you do more and more, because in the back of the mind you think you’re not doing enough, and so you constantly stockpile finished ( and unfinished) ideas for some randomly chosen ‘rainy day’ in the future. In the process, work seems to increasingly become your world, and you start to become progressively detached from other things in your life at a level that can leave you more encumbered in work, and not much else. It’s not healthy in my opinion, but that was then, and time moves on.

In all honesty, you never really do take a complete break; there’s always some little creative “twiddling and fiddling” that you’re engaged in, just for fun. And that’s good because it can be filed away as fodder for future use (a more economical form of stockpiling).  More importantly, it can also validate that you haven’t burned yourself out to the point of hating what you’re doing. It’s all about finding some balance within, and knowing when to say yes or no, and so on.



During this period, a multi-media artist friend told me very enthusiastically about an opportunity to submit photographs for  inclusion in an artistic concept, as part of a big art installation project. All in all, he was very positive sounding about the whole thing. 

Then coincidentally, a short while later I ended up in a professional photographic studio to catch up with another friend, who was snapping a four piece band; this eventually took up most of his working day. But during a break, he showed me his workstation area and I noticed that the entire start-to-end workflow process was digital. And yet there was still a warmth and natural quality to all the work. That got my spare thinking cap out of the pocket, and onto my head.

Now more than ever, the once sacred tools of creative alchemy and fusion are available in immeasurable abundance, and technology has spearheaded this development. Like most people, I´ve never hesitated to take pictures when feeling inspired, as technology allows you to do this at anytime and quite literally, anywhere. More importantly modern smartphones, with their built-in processing and photo sharing applications, as well as their higher quality picture resolution and rendering, allow instant feedback. Holidays are an obvious source of visual enlightenment, simply because you´re coming across a slew of new surroundings and hence an abundance of new imagery, which you want to remember as much of after you´ve gone back home. 


We can now take thousands of pictures and not have to worry about rolls of film, or even light conditions and aperture etc, because technology has made it much easier to literally point and click. This, to a degree, also extends to other tech-enhancing art outlets such as music, video and film too. You can literally "fix it in the mix" now, and even start to work on things whilst recording them live. The ready availability of previously unimaginable memory sizes and processing speeds have allowed buffer sizes and the rectification functionality in software ( i.e. the undo function), to go far beyond our everyday usage levels. 

So if the tools
now available allow us to create hundreds and even thousands of takes of something to attain newer levels of perfection, then what has this meant for works of art? Perhaps now that we are closer to reaching an absolute apex in terms of auto corrective procedures when using technology, is there a growing (and ironic) hankering for a bit of imperfection here and there? This is not to be confused with malfunction, but is the recognisable flavour of reality, which also hints at an analogue-like or “real world” ad-hoc inconsistency. 

In terms of music, I can vouch for being more aurally pleased when I can hear some random warmth and movement here and there in a song or melodic composition. This can be anything from the slight but unavoidable drift of tuning in an electronic or organic instrument, to a voice that hasn´t had the life and passion inherent in it, auto-corrected into a near-sterile facsimile of the original performance(s). I´m not alone in this and I´ve yet to see someone look mortified at a live concert where these little flecks of humanity in the performances, are part and parcel of the warmth and enjoyment of the whole experience. 

In effect, art can be seen as human expression, with an emphasis on the qualities of being human. That is, the output is more organic and coming from our not-always one hundred percent accurate selves. By nature, there is always something not quite perfect with our mode of expression, which we as human beings can perhaps relate to on a subconscious level. 


As already mentioned, this isn´t to be confused with a mistake which is so off-track that it can be potentially ruinous to the process. It´s more about leaving in enough of an emotive moment or set of emotive moments, which are akin to a letting go of yourself somewhere.  That´s the connection to the work, which allows the artist to reach out because he or she has allowed a part of themselves to be expressed that way, without  total eradication in the polishing and post production processes that are now de rigeur.


To exemplify from a sonic perspective, this sort of thing is more obviously noticeable in recorded music ( more so up until the millennium), with count-in's left in ( the ‘1, 2,3,4’ often heard at the beginning of a song) and coughing ( eg:- Led Zeppelin’s ‘whole lotta love’) also left in the mix. There are also ad-libbed remarks and much more besides on so many songs and albums, but as a fan of the artists and the process, I find a lot of it enjoyable and fun. All in all,  it’s not there to mess up the final product and it’s been left there out of an artistic choice. 

So in today´s digital age, art can be thought about as leaving much of the original feelings and intentions, into the finished work.  This is the humanity aspect we can relate to, and involves the aforementioned imperfections. And technology has made it far easier for all of us to create and put our work out in the world; there are more storage and showcasing spaces and websites available online for next to nothing,  than there has ever been, since the internet became commercially viable. 


Yet the individuals who shine, or at the very least stand out, are those who allow their personality to come through without excessive removal of their own special human elements of uniqueness and originality. In effect it's what I call the leaving in of our ‘sweet, smart and sly little idiosyncrasies ’to the end product. And this is all part of the charm. Leaving something of ourselves in the process of creating the work, is part of the art. This is what essentially draws you in, even if it's at a level you may not consciously recognise. 
 

In that same vein, I edited this article myself. Not too much, but hopefully enough to make it a more crisper and cleaner read. I also pondered over some of the construction and syntax, but kept to most of my original ‘ grammatical flavour’ in the final edit.  

 Of course, I’ve chosen to leave this bit of information in at the end, and the irony isn’t lost on me. For like many people, I’m always striving to improve my work. But I’ll never be an anodyne, and soullessly efficient automaton. I’m happy having a heart and soul, even if it means I’m imperfect here and there. For ultimately, our emotions are the bedrock of our creativity. They're like snapshots of so many moments in our souls, which can create anything from simple jigsaws to complex mosaics and masterpieces. 


In effect, we’re all works of art; constantly changing, reshaping and trying to improve. And like all works of art, we’re also unfinished works in progress, with countless real-world interactive 'downloads' and updates to constantly process, analyse, accept and/or reject. 

The most important point, is that we can be paradoxically perfect in our imperfection. And that's a fine and humanely wonderful thing to be.

(c), S R DHAIN, (reworked & updated)

The original article was published on the American Chronicles website and publication.  

Saturday, 4 April 2015

We're Going Round And Round ; Thirteen entrepreneurs give advice to their younger selves, Last of the original ipods & How to eat toast

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. All the things we wish we knew then, we know now and this can bring on a dose of the 'what if's', from time to time. Luckily for me, my mind is wired in such a way that I can't get lost in the retrospective altering of events in space and time, at all. Nonethless, I do sometimes wish that some current situations and scenarios in my life would either speed up or move out of their cycle of event(s). That's not unusual, and is probably everyone's situation at some point or another, for periods of their life.

Ultimately, patience is indeed a virtuous quality to have, most of the time. That's a piece of advice I'd wholeheartedly give my wheel-spinning self from a decade ago ::-

The advice 13 entrepreneurs would give their younger selves

The nuggets proffered here, are indeed golden. Naysayers and doubters, along with self-doubt, is one of the tougher ones to overcome. Especially if you're not naturally self-confident. I struggled with both for years and still have the occasional 'bout of doubt' as I call it. It is healthy to have a smidgeon of doubt now and then, as it can get you into valuable 'self-check' mode.

But ultimately the proof of the pudding, is in the success of the results. That's a different ballgame altogether and can entail all manner of metrics. I will say that you DO need some fiscal return on your time and energy, especially beyond the short and mid-term, otherwise the whole thing can become an expensive passion. That's a set of scenarios within itself, and if you can raise the investment for a longer, future based target ( facebook or any of the other tech based companies are a valid example), or literally start to monetize within a few years of startup, it'll make and give your esteem the necessary boost to keep on going. More importantly, it will keep any debt levels at parity, which is essential in the short to mid term of business set up.

Going back to the days when everything was less internet based, is something that I did briefly the other day. I was clearing out a desk drawer, when I found THREE old pre-smartphone handsets in there. None of them were 'clamshells' , as spotted being used by Anna Wintour a short while ago. But all were less than half the size of my current smartphone. And all of them could access the internet, albeit slowly compared to my current android handset. I've put them in a box and am keeping them together with my previous generation smartphone, for a future 'rainy day'.

It seems I'm not the only one having a 'new-old' device clearout :-

Fans scramble for iPod Classic, the music player Apple killed off

The only question that comes to my mind is, what happens when these obsolete devices stop working?

In the case of Apple, to my knowledge there won't be any hard or software support down the line as they've been discontinued per se. These last generation ipods have been bought to use, so they won't be languishing in desk drawers or storage crates. At least, not all of them will.  And that's how I see it too. Keep them immaculate and get some mileage out of them while you can.

Something that won't become obsolete in a hurry, is food. Especially that humble staple of breakfast, a piece of toast :-

How to eat: toast

I had no idea that eating a piece ( or two) of superbly warmed, heated bread could be such an involving and precise endeavour. I'll stick with my toaster thank you. And the spread I use will also be kept in the fridge, but will be taken out five or more minutes BEFORE I decide to go for my own toast experience.

When you've been around for long enough in any situation, you'll see patterns forming. Habits of people tend to form quickly, as do friendships. Sustaining both requires effort. And in the same vein, you see innovations come and go. The great ones tend to have a level of simplicity attached to the remit somewhere, which is part of their core appeal. I think it appeals to the more animalistic side of our nature.

The aforementioned clamshell phones, the ipod with its simplistic touch interface, and a piece of warmed bread with butter ( and maybe jam) on it are all perfect examples of brilliance and simplicity going hand in hand. All of these are much-loved in a world of ever increasing technological complexity. The irony of course, being that we're being sold an easier life to spend doing other things, whilst our devices are taking over the bulk of our doing AND our thinking as well. But what to do with that extra time, other than work harder to pay for these devices and services?

There's always the gym, keeping on top of housework and resolving and maintaining other domestic scenarios. And let's not forget the garden and long walks in natural surroundings such as parks. It's ironic
that as I've travelled more and spent an increasing amount of time indoors around technology for work, I trully relish the days at the park with friends even more. Besides, there's always the drink at the pub afterwards. And food too.This includes having the odd ploughman's lunch.

And like an ipod or even a ploughman's lumch, you can't always improve something when it's so right the first time; this includes the consideration that each an every modification, isn't necessarily an improvement of the 'game changer' variety .Of course, that doesn't mean there's not an alternate way to do things. So the question then becomes, do you change for change's sake or because other variables have forced the change to happen anyway? Nothing in life is constant, and that's a good thing. After all, having the same day over and over again, would become boring.

In essence, change is the one constant in life that happens with or without our consent. And we should be grateful for that, even if it means we have to adapt.

Keeping centred makes dealing with changes a lot easier. That's something we can all work at, even if it means changing a small portion of ourselves on a daily basis.

The most expensive photo ever, The benefits of workplace diversity & The cinema that turned into a slumber party

Now that we've fully embraced the digital camera en masse, which is due in great part to the cost reduction and inclusion in every smartphone available, it seems quaint to think of a photograph as a printed thing. That occoured to me last week, when I walked into the spare room and knocked over a bag containing negatives and bundles of family snaps going back to the early 1970s'.

It was also echoed when I found out about this :-

The $6.5m canyon: it's the most expensive photograph ever

I wouldn't concur with the scathing reading of the photograph itself; that's a subjective thing. However, I do agree that the value of it is incredibly steep. Perhaps it's far too steep, when I factor other things into play in the name of creating art, but ulitmately the value of something is in the buyer's hands to a large degree. Especially when it comes to artistic merit and worth.

This extends on to music, which in my opinion is currently in a state that it doesn't deserve to be . Yes, the old record industry way of distribution and profit is now in a state of embers, partially due to the magnetic and addictive power of freely available file distribution networks and sharing platforms. But paid downloads have been around for over a decade too, and the issue stems from a whole cluster of consumers  no longer placing bankable value on the artists' work. Streaming services are trying to get deeper into this, but in the process have inadvertantly devalued the currency of recorded and mastered output even further to the floor.

I suspect the paradigm there was that something is better than nothing. But the breaking down of entry barriers, with soundcloud, cd baby et al, all of whom are low-cost self distribution based networks, has increased throughput and brought down the profits to ground level.

In effect, if this carries on at the current pace, then it'll be a place left full of musicians only geared towards generating fast turnaround and quick profits. And this scenario can be echoed to any other creative medium where digital technology has had a knock on effect. Even pictures have been devalued somewhat, as all the social networks allow you to upload and share your efforts.

Ultimately, there is a paradox currently in place, where we're all encouraged to share and put our work up for all to see and hear, but this is creating a glut of content which people aren't necessarily willing to pay for. Whilst the filesharing and download sites are being jack-hammered out of existance by legal pressures, there undeniably needs to be some form of gatekeeping and even quality control, in order to prevent all forms of shareable content becoming devalued to the point of worthlessness.

I suspect that the bigger technology based firms such as Apple are working on something in the soft (and hardware?) domains to facilitate this. Here's hoping there is something in the pipeline, and sooner rather than later.

As in the world of creativity, diversity is something that is essential to the modern workplace :-

The Myriad Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

The evidence is clear to see. Whilst the days of the specialst won't ever be numbered ( I cannot envisage doctors and surgeons being replaced by multi-skilled types or machines in a hurry), the ability to wear many hats at once is something that has tremendous value. I'm blessed that I've never been afraid to roll my sleeves up and pitch in if need be, when the going gets tough. That's more of a 'pragmatic emergency' scenario, which entails all sorts of physical activity in the process.

For example, I wasn't averse to loading vans, packing, checking and sorting garments for size and quality control etc, to get an order to be processed through, in the days when I worked in the family manufacturing business. However, the principles remain the same.

Not everyone can contribute on every level, but if you at least have an UNDERSTANDING of what your colleagues and cohorts in the enterprise are setting out to do, then when deadlines are not being met, you will have a greater level of patience and tolerance, together with the appreciation of why things are taking longer. You can therefore also provide valuable moral support, too.

But all work and no play, makes Jack and Jill exhausted and potentially dull people :-

Ikea Turned A Movie Theater Into A Giant Slumber Party

A brave move and an exciting one. I hope they try something similar in the UK somewhere and in the states.

In effect, we're all striving to achieve more and become more than we think we can be. Our parents' generation were also aspirational, but it seems they had more immediately tangible and ( it could be hence argued) realistic goals to attain. They seemed to be more content with just having a home of their own and a family, with all the 'extra stuff' just being the icing on the cake.

My generation (and younger), seems to either not want all of that as much, or have suddenly become aware that we've ended up switching our ancestral paradigms and ethics, inside out. So whilst we have nicer clothes, more active lifestyles and a lot more experiences under our belts than they had by the time they had reached our age, we're not necessarily any happier.

In fact, I'd be brave enough to say that there is a sense of dissatisfaction that is pervasively driving the consumption of everything else upwards, as a result.  We're hence working harder than ever before, just to support the increased consumption of everything else on a material level, because we're either unable or unwilling to tend to our need to be nurtured and loved. Something somewhere has gone askew, and quite drastically so if the scribes and the people I've met on my travels, are an indicator to go by.

However,  like shakespeare's wheel, everything changes with time. What we can do, is to ensure that we're close to the centre of the wheel, as to not be affected by the peaks and troughs of success and failiure too greatly. That requires an inner peace and stillness that comes from a number of things. Love and support from family and friends is a source. But maintaining your own inner calm is something you are ultimately responsible for. Yoga and meditation help with that.

I'd rather be calmer and happier, than feel like I'm riding a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts on a regular or random basis. You still feel excitement and joy, but the feeling of being 'on the edge' in terms of your nervous system and so on, doesn't come into play so much.

And that's a good thing in both the short and long term, in my opinion.  Your body and mind will thank you for it, more than you can imagine.

I'll drink to that, any day of the week. Except maybe sundays.

You Say Hop & I'll Hop; Switch from maker to manager, Better your craft & Going for two years without spending money

Being self-employed has a lot of benefits. You have autonomy of workspace, complete control of how you'll do the work, and you can keep taking as many coffee and snack breaks as you like. You can even let your cat or dog sashay around you, as you're sitting there at your desk ( or on your sofa), for a longer morning than you thought, because you forgot to shower up and get dressed before you got into work mode.

The aforementioned may be familiar to some people. I'm guilty as charged. Especially on the odd saturday morning, which means I'm still randomly pulling a 6 day week.

When you work for yourself, you are the maker and the manager. In effect, you're doing the lot :-

5 ways to switch from maker to manager—and back again

Meetings tend to take up a lot of time. And sometimes, this is justifyable and necessary. New product, new innovation, new corporate schema and so on, need a lengthier bed-in time than sales results and general seasonal overview type stuff. But shorter meetings, broken into different sessions over different days, can tend to be more effective, in my opinion, than long two or three hour ( and more) scenarios which necessitate long breaks.

And the same goes for workflow. If you can remain 'in flow' whilst working, for longer than a few hours on a regular basis, then you may have a level of awareness and almost zen-like or spiritual communion with your craft than most people.

Even when I've been working on a piece of music, I automatically tend to switch out every few hours, just to give my creative and energy 'batteries' a chance to reset themselves. It also allows you to pull an NLP ( Neuro Linguistic Programming) trick of walking away from the scene, and coming back to the matter at hand with a refreshed set of synapses. This allows you to be more objective with your work, and can make the task of editing and re-synthesizing your output a lot easier.

What's better still, is having some great friends in your field, pushing you to improve your output :-

Want to Better Your Craft? Make Friends with Talented People

I confess that I never used to be comfortable with having my work judged in person by people who cared, but who didn't ( in my mind) necessarily know what I was doing. That's where you have to look hard in order to find a peer group that you can feel will improve your game. This then means you have to allow yourself to be (and feel) humbled by those better than you, which is something that not everyone can admit to doing. All sorts of reasons can come into play, but ego and self-consciousness are the main culprits.

But I can personally vouch for this; if you can spend some time at the very least around those who are at a higher level in whatever endeavour you're hoping to attain a level of mastery in, and be like a student, you will manage to acquire a level of greatness that you may not have thought possible. I'm fortunate and blessed that I have people like that in my life to this day. Even if there's one person around that compells you to just listen to them, rather than talk, then you will learn more than you could possibly imagine.

Learning to live a life with money and all the extra accoutrements it can bring you, isn't difficult. After all, it's the capitalist flowchart and dream, reaching it's natural conclusion.

But what about living a life without money? How long do you think you'd last?

Shantanu Starick: How I Went Two Years Without Spending Any Money 

I'm not averse to the odd bit of bartering. However, what Shantanu has done here, requires a level of derring-do that I'm not sure I'd have the impetus to muster now, simply cause I enjoy a level of comfort which comes with the certainty of having enough to sit down and not have to think or stress about day to day survival, on every level.

Working hard, and being flexible are things that can be paradoxical and synergestic at the same time. In order to work hard at something, there's a level of repetition involved.

The easiest example to give, is going to the gym and working a particlar muscle or part of your body, over a course of weeks or months . You see noticeable results over a period of time, in accordance with how much effort you put into that particular exercise. Concentrated training on your biceps and triceps, for instance, can have quicker visual feedback compared to doing circuit training over the same time period. However, it could be argued that the circuit training has more of a general benefit to your wellbeing, as it encompasses cardiovascular exercise in the process.

In effect, variety is the spice of life, and again I'm fortunate that I've worked in different areas and fields over the years, which is something I never intended upon, when I was still figuring out what to do whilst at college. Maybe I'm still figuring out what to do, in the sense that there's a slight restlessness that drives me to tackle various projects, which after the event I sometimes consider to have been out of my 'normal boundary', so to speak.

Flexibility is the key to survival in our modern times. Holding on to your principles and morals is always a good thing; that is what shapes and brings forth our character.  But if you cling too tightly to any paradigm that no longer serves where you are now, or is even starting to cause you distress and harm in some way, then it's time to reconsider the situation. For what we do now, allows us to think some way ahead, in order to change our future.

As a wise man once said, fate is for those too weak to determine their own destiny. Every second is an opportunity to do something else and every minute is a chance to be truer to your own vision. For instance,  I've recently entered another decade of my life. And just like when another new year arrives on January the first, it takes a little time to acclimatise to the fact that it's another phase of life that I've entered into.

The same goes for the arrival of a new decade. Time and how I spend it , means more to me now than it did a decade ago. I try to spend more time enjoying life, than pondering over what's next. That means doing more, rather than thinking about it too much.

I hope you're doing the same. Especially if you're old enough to remember the early '90's with absolute clarity. In which case you'll remember when 'baggy' was a way of dress style. There was rave, MC Hammer and of course Vanilla Ice. Heady days.

Ah..it wasn't too long ago. Not if I can remember all of that.