January 05, 2011
Getting Pulled Into Vampire Legends
A girlfriend from grade school, who I'm still in touch with, was "into vampires," and read every vampire book she could get her hands on while I read mystery novels and any book which had a complicated plot needing "solving." Vampires never interested me and I never even watched a vampire movie or knew one piece of vampire trivia, until recently that is.
If you love writing and grew up in a family where writing wasn't savored or done, you can't help but be thrilled when you learn that a relative later in life published a book. When my cousin told me his book was on its way, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, promising to devour every word of his newly published pup. Then the box arrived. Was I reading this correctly? Vampires? What on earth?
Dead or a Lie is not just a vampire novel -- it's a mystery, full of intrigue, passion, love and a bunch of misfits who eventually find not just their freedom but peace and serenity at the end of a long tunnel. The main character Lee is a mere mortal, but one with "special blood," which leads her to a mission of 'freeing' unbound vampires, those caught between a mortal living world and the vampire unliving one.
She is known as the Sacrosanct, the "one" whose blood can bring the Unbound back to the world of the living. The power of the Sacrosanct's blood can bring the Unbound back from centuries living in a world of darkness, and into the light and human life.
Sacrosanctity was originally a right of tribunes in Ancient Rome to not be harmed physically. Lee's protector in the novel is none other than the dashing Luke Regens, who by day is a doctor at the hospital where she works the night shift, and by night, is an Unbound vampire whose mission is to ensure the safety of Lee, the Sacrosanct, so she an free them all.
If this weren't a complicated enough mission on its own, it becomes even more complex when he falls in love with her and she with him. This is where the novel moves from vampire-esque intrique and mystery to romance and passion, questioning our instincts, our choices and the lines between black and white.
If you don't have a history with vampires, you don't know of their hunger for human blood and emotion-less soul despite their often suave appearance. I loved the fact that a vampire, albeit an Unbound one, was given a conscious, not unlike the one Brad Pitt's Louis in Interview with a Vampire had throughout his 250+ years.
In the midst of and after finishing the book, I couldn't help but dive into four movies and a little background. Rules and legends differed depending on where I looked and there were countless variations of the implications of garlic, sunlight, silver swords, holy water, crosses and fire.
|Over the years, it seems as if vampires have gotten less "scary" as Hollywood producers and authors began to create human-conscious vampires who didn't get fully "taken" by the bite and as such, are living in no-man's land as misfits not truly belonging to either world.
I wonder if this has something to do with the onslought of American independent culture and as more of it pervails, more misfits emerge and overcome unbearable odds, i.e., Oprah's life is a great example.
People want to inherently see the good in things and so why not in a vampire? If we are the ones creating the new stories, why not add some romance and soul to vampire characters....? Just as Ann Rice did with her Interview with a Vampire script, Jason Barret with Dead or a Lie, Bram Stoker with Dracula and Charlaine Harris with Dead Until Dark.
I also learn in my vampire research and discovery that in Homer's Odyssey, the shades that Odysseus meets on his journey to the underworld are lured to the blood of freshly sacrificed rams, a fact that Odysseus uses to his advantage to summon the shade of Tiresias.
The strix, a nocturnal bird that fed on human flesh and blood is also referenced in ancient Roman tales. It's remarkable how many cultures have adopted various versions of vampire legends. Who knows how many people actually believe in them? Who knows how many have had encounters with vampires in graveyards or in their dreams?
Even if you have never had a fantasy of being swept off your feet by a Tom Cruise-like vampire or kissed passionately by the mysterious Doctor Luke Regens, aren't you a tad big curious?
If you haven't gotten on the vampire bandwagon yet, dive in and get reading and of course, watching. What are you waiting for?
December 31, 2010
2010: The Year of Multiple Digital Personas
This past year was one of my busiest years, largely because of 4 factors: I re-launched two sites, started shooting more (note: Canon 7D purchase), I seemed to be on the road non-stop and clients expected more than ever and yet they want to pay less for results.
Let's start by looking at some of the technology trends and mindshifts in 2010 which led to such a chaotic schedule.
Social media tools exploded. Living in Silicon Valley, you get hit with more beta trials than anywhere else in the world and testing new shit out is what I do among other things, so it's no surprise that I was hit with more than one person could possibly digest. Yet, some of those tools started to go mainstream, so suddenly things that were on my back burner couldn't go unnoticed anymore. For one, location-based services started to get a lot of attention.
Last January, I found myself in a hotel room in Munich desperate to connect and "check in" before heading out for a stroll in the fresh fallen snow.
How F-Ked up is that? Foursquare doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that I'm in another country when I am, regardless of how decent "connectivity" is, yet I can't seem to give in to technology controlling my environment even when it doesn't work. What's wrong with acknowledging that I'm not an engineer, don't try to fix this.....just let things/it be?"
Later in the year, I went through something similar in Paris. Refer to my blog post: When in Paris, BE in Paris, Disconnect.
That brings me to Part B of this story. Technology DID in fact control my environment more than any year in my life.
I relaunched We Blog the World this year because of its organic growth and growing interest from bloggers around the globe who wanted to contribute.
Launching a site isn't what it used to be because of the fact that a site isn't just a site anymore - it's connected to multiple digital personas on the web.
With the site had to be a Facebook "fan" page or whatever they now call it, a Twitter update to match the look-and-feel of the revamped site, as well as photo and video online personas to go with the rest of it.
Then there's maps, mobile optimization, geo-location, custom RSS feeds, online newsletters and editing to ensure the world sees what you want them to see rather than poorly curated clutter on the web. (see Linda Stone/continuous partial attention -- not new to 2010 but still highly relevant).
Enter the growing focus on curation. We're long overdue for attention on intellectual and relevant curation of content that matters to us most.
Since tools can't curate content automatically in a way that is useful to us yet, human curation needs to be part of the process and for anyone who has spent time curating and tagging content on the web knows, it's bloody time consuming. Pearltrees, a curation tool, was a big part of my life this year and I spent time alerting content creators in various vertical markets about the aspect and value of human curation as an integral part of their workflow.
I switched to Chrome this year as my main browser, suddenly I ended up with three phones, one of which was a Google phone that simplified my local calls and texting when in Europe, and I was nearly tempted to buy an iPad so I could carry around yet another device with me to ensure I was connected 24/7 just in case the three phones and two laptops were not enough.
What's important to note is how the 'always on' part of my life which used to largely happen in my office and to and from meetings during my work day migrated into every aspect of my life.
Not only were my digital personas growing in numbers, but so was my attention to them. Suddenly I had a flash page (see about.me, currently still in beta), 3 new sites, 3 new Facebook pages, 4 new Twitter personas, Foursquare and a growing number of international connections to "manage."
By summer, I was seriously feeling the effect of The Shallows (see Nicholas Carr's book: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains). In synthesizing recent cognitive research, he shares his own experiences, something that I could personally relate to. Carr writes "I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something has been tinkering iwth my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going -- so far as I can tell -- but it's changing."
By late July, I found that I couldn't sit still when I was out without a device and moreso, my attention span had shortened dramatically. The same thing was happening to others around me. We couldn't concentrate for long without new digital stimuli, even if that be a simple text message. My reading moved from reading whole books to skimming them, the rest left for online editorial only.
Reading and re-reading books have always brought a sense of calm to my otherwise chaotic world and yet, I had stopped reading novels for awhile. Instead, my reading time was filled with learning how social media was changing our lives and the impact it was having and will continue to have on business and the world. I read about new tools, solutions and trends. Of course, none of it had heart and soul but it was great insight for what to adopt early on.
Carr asserts that "every technology is an expression of human will. Through our tools, we seek to expand our power and control over our circumstances -- over nature, over time and distance, over one another."
And so, with this growing tension between feeling and fearing that my brain was actually changing chemically and the need to be "always" be connected to some device at any given time, I decided to leave the country in August without a device.
Off to South America I went with a friend who brought a Blackberry with her and I, a netbook, largely to be used for checking email once every couple of days, but moreso to offload photos from camera to hard drive. So, while technology wasn't off limits for me, having a device in my hands so I could be reachable and in turn reach out whenever and wherever, was not an option.
When you have close to ten online digital personas you are 'managing' at any given time, not being connected for a few weeks is highly uncomfortable. As I was boarding a plane from Miami to Guyaquil, I noticed how many people fidgeted when the pilot told them to turn their electronic devices off.
Some people stared down at their devices as if they would give them something stimulating even though the screen was blank. A few picked up magazines but flipped through as if bored without the energy of their device, their "adult" pacifier.
I found myself going through the same awkwardness, yet because the device was "home" and not an option when we landed, I was forced to find both my energy and my calm from a static page of a book or an old fashioned notebook which I brought to record thoughts using an actual physical pen.
Since I was with someone who had not made the same choice, I was somewhat forced into the digital world by watching her fiddle with her Blackberry, nose down into its addictive energy while we were driving past the Amazon jungle. It was astonishing that she could get a connection up there and because she 'could,' she did.
There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to check into the Amazon on Foursquare for the world to see, as somewhat of a novelty. There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to tweet out to the world that the Amazon was in trouble and attach a photo of chain saws on the side of the road with piles of timber lined up in rows a couple hundred miles away from the nearest big town.
I had to refocus my energy away from the device and her fingers upon it and onto the lush green wildness out my right window and as soon as I did, slowly but surely, my center found calm. It found presence. It found wonder. It found marvel. It found gratitude. It found wow. It found real physical life that was breathing its beauty into me as I decided to participate IN IT rather than watch or engage with it on a screen.
I didn't blog about my experience that week since we were camping in the middle of the jungle, but I also decided not to blog about it as soon as we were connected in another town. I waited until I returned to the states, and for multiple reasons, it was the right thing to do. Reflections followed - here, here and here. I also wrote about my detaching experience called Hey Digital Maven, How Okay Are You With Silence?
Being present and recalling that presence later on because I had time to reflect on gratitude was key. Being constantly connected doesn't give us the time or more importantly, the 'space' to reflect and go deeper. Our ability to go deeper is limited because of what this constant digital stimuli is doing to our brains, and in turn, our behavior.
As Carr reflects from the discovery he made through his research, "while we know that our brain is an exquisitely sensitive monitor of experience, we want to believe that it lies beyond the influence of experience.
We want to believe that the impressions our brain records as sensations and stores as memories leave no physical imprint on its own structure. To believe otherwise would, we feel, call into question the integrity of the self."
Having a break from managing digital personas for a few weeks reminded me of the essential need for balance -- not just life/play and work balance but digital balance.
While I found that others were going through the same thing, the addictive quality of the lifestyle shift is gradual, and people often find it hard to talk about or perhaps explain.
When I first picked up the iPad and browsed through my blog using Flipboard, a wave of excitement flew through me as the pictures I created in the real world came to life on the screen. A beautiful screen.
The display was magical and an actual device was re-sorting or curating if you like, the content....my content. It was telling my story in its own way and the stories of other bloggers I knew and respected. I thought about how "cool" it would be to have this experience with me at all times, so wherever I was, I could have that dynamic engaging experience rather than a much blander web page.
Yet, when all I sometimes need is the information on the web, having that extra visual pleasure brings me into the web experience more than it does my physical surroundings. When I choose "it" more often than the people around me in the physical world, I'm losing something valuable as well am I not?
Digital addicts will argue not of course since for them, the additional dimension of what these devices bring to their online life (where they spend 90% of their time) is so much greater that they would argue making another choice is 'halting a change' that is not only inevitable but critical.
Inevitable as it is, it doesn't mean we can't be more aware on the impact it is having on our daily lives and decide with our human brains during this explosive evolution and revolution, that human interaction without a digital pacifier at our side, does still hold tremendous value.
Being present without anything in our hands or a list of "online to dos" on our mind makes us so much more aware of a friend's breath across the table as they listen to our words and the intensity in their eyes as they dance with a story they're sharing.
As more and more moves online and away from physical paper and objects, we're reminded of privacy concerns and location-based services knowing our every move and offering products to us as soon as we walk into a store or cafe.
We're reminded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was a runner-up for Time’s most important Person of the Year regardless of whether you see him as a hero or a villain.
We're reminded that the world has changed as we know it and there's no moving back in time.
While I'm certainly not proposing that we fight the inevitable, or stop technological progress and advancement, I'd like to offer some suggestions as a way to have more physical experiences in our lives amidst the growth of all things digital:
1. Pick a Day a Week to Disconnect from the Digital World: Remember we're talking about only one day a week. Use that day to engage with the physical world - trust me, it still exists. Choose something you're passionate about that is physical and doesn't have a digital extension to it, i.e., skiing down a mountain, cycling through a forest without your cell in your pocket, playing with a child on the beach, or discussing philosophy over dinner at the table with a friend without your iPad or iPhone in a bag by your feet.
2. Practice Using Your Brain Not Just Your Digital Pacifier: When you're tempted to rely on something digital to get you through an experience, choose a time when you don't need to rely on it and use your brain instead. A great example is your car navigation system.
The time to do this is obviously when you're not in a hurry to get from A to B. It's an interesting exercise for those who have relied on a nav system for awhile now. Male friends have commented that they have lost their acute directional sense since they put that part of their brain to rest for awhile. It's not unlike what happened with the introduction of calculators and over time, discovering how hard it was to do math on the fly.
3. Automate some of your Digital Life: While it's important to have a presence on the web if you run a company or work for one, and as part of it, engage, engage, engage, some of it can be automated. Focus on the voices and conversations that matter to you most and automate the rest.
The more scattered your presence, the less you can truly engage and prioritize on the people and passions you most identify with. It's not just about numbers. Quality matters and quality takes time, concerted time and effort.
4. Become the Artist you're Designed to be and Backburner the Rest: Create don't react. Remember that you don't have to respond to everything and everyone all the time. When we're constantly responding to things on our screen, the "lizard brain" is taking over, not the genius inside us. When we're reacting to online chatter, there's less time to "create our true art," which is our gift to the planet while we're alive to share it. In other words, our purpose.
As Seth Godin writes in Linchpins, one of my favorite books this year, "the Lizard Brain often sabotages the progress we have made and stops us from creating our best work." Refer to a great post Seth wrote on 'quieting the lizard brain.'
In my opinion, albeit one of the most useful things to hit this decade, social media has given us so many distractions, that it's difficult to take a step back and realize that we don't have to choose and use it all.
Make the time to create the art you're designed to create and the life you want to have.
Once we realize that we have a choice to pick and choose what's most useful for us and leave the rest, we'll create an opening to create our best art. Let's remember that our digital personas are not the whole picture of our lives, just a piece of it.
As a wise Nepalese elderly man once said to me on my way up a long Annapurna trail many years ago, Patience on your journey grasshopper, patience.
December 31, 2010 in America The Free, Books, Entertainment/Media, Europe, On Blogging, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On People & Life, On RSS, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 26, 2010
Management by Design Released
In this age of consumer-obsessed business, the experience of the worker is too often neglected. With our new knowledge economy, people have increasing freedom to choose where and when they work. The best and brightest are fighting for entry to those organizations with workplace experiences that are engaging, inviting, and motivating.
Timely and comprehensive, the book explores the premise that one of the best ways to attract and retain the most talented people—and their knowledge—is through designing environments that turn today's increasingly virtual workplace into an attractive place for people to do their work, regardless of their employment relationship, or where and when they work.
By applying balance, proportion, and simplicity, you can create a workplace that is efficient and effective, as well as intriguing and intellectually challenging. With sound advice for maintaining this crucial component of business, this seminal book explores:
- How focusing on employees' work experience brings unimaginable benefits
- Why great experiences can turn into long-term relationships, positive brand expression, and lasting stories that reflect back on the organization
- Tips for starting the design process, finessing it to fit specific needs, and putting plans into action
October 06, 2010
The American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin & Power Bind Jihadists and Radical Right
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga addressed a San Francisco audience at the Commonwealth Club this week. Founder of the Daily Kos and Author of American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right, he presented his charges against the U.S. conservative movement, and compared it to what he believes is the U.S.’s top international enemy: radical Islamists.
Markos discussed the controversial parallels that he has found through his close examination of prominent figures and events within the far right in America and Afghanistan.
In his book, he explores America’s primary international enemy—Islamic radicalism—which he outlines in detail. He talks about its survival depends on government by theocracy, through curtailing civil liberties, embracing torture, repressing women, eradicating homosexuals from society, and insisting on the use of force over diplomacy.
Markos pulls no punches as he compares how the Republican Party and Islamic radicals maintain similar worldviews and tactics. He also challenges the media, fellow progressives, and American elected officials to call the radical right on their jihadist tactics more forcefully for the good of our nation and safety of all citizens.
September 29, 2010
Othmer's The Futurist: A Lonely But Humorous Journey
I just finished reading The Futurist by James Othmer. Not a new novel, but like piles of others in my pending pile by the bed, it's been sitting there waiting to be devoured. Three flights and an hour in a hammock later, I'm through it - seems like it takes longer to conquer novels than it used to 5 years ago, due to the fact that my attention span seems to be shrinking thanks to the web and social media.
What an ironic book to read in the midst of this online evolution, especially given the fact that while its fiction, the character reminds me of several Web 2.0 illuminaries who do the speaking circuit and talk about the future, the exploding path of possibilities.
Most of all, the novel is humorous. The main character, Yates, spends his life making money and taking in praise and media horrahs addressing audiences around the world about future trends. He weaves in references to high profile technology, business and innovation events we are all aware of including TED, Davos and others. Tony Robbins also gets a plug during a stint he does in Fiji, where he watches a sacrificial dance a corporate executive organizes.
Yates once did a trust fall at an anarchists' convention and once, addressed the sales force of a failing dot.com and a rollicking Luddite symposium in the same week and received standing ovations at both. He once consulted for a firm that designed edgy logos and teen-centric merchandise for ficticious companies and once was paid five figures by an undisclosed government agency to go to Hawaii to play golf and brainstorm random acts of terrorism.
His rich, intellectual, successful and nymphomaniacal artist buddy Campbell loses the ability to cope in the real world so takes off for Greenland where he has sex with large busted blondes, combs the Internet and drinks a helluva lot of Vodka. He says in a weak moment to Yates, "What's weird is that our parents, my parents, sacrificed so much and worked so hard doing what they love so we could get an education and do what we love. Now that I think of it, it was almost evil, giving us that kind of freedom, mandating that we try to identify something that we love."
Yates loses himself as well, as he can no longer play the superficial game and spit out words that corporations and governments want to hear speech after speech. After a series of violent acts in Italy and South Africa, he turns to booze and speech language that he thinks is sure to end his career, yet it seems to have the opposite effect.
Soon, he is in more demand and yet, as the American Empire begins to fray around the edges, Yates existence does too. He goes around the world trying to identify why everyone hates "us." On his journey, he encounters a gay male model spy, a British corporate magnate with a taste for South Pacific sacrifice rituals and solitude from a hooker from Johannesburg who he sends money to so that she can join him on his daunting and fear-ridden escapades. He feels somehow that she provides perhaps the only truth and authenticity in his life.
Yates once stood in the White House Rose Garden flanked by Siegfried and Roy, Stephen Hawking, and the NCAA women's volleyball champs from USC.
By living a life of so many inconsistencies and so many lies, he no longer can believe in the present or future world or 'his existence', one that he has created. In the middle of all of it, his father dies, a man whose memory gives Yates a childhood view of the innocent and natural starlit sky. And so, he dares looks at it, even on other continents.
People die around him. His girlfriend leaves him. And, he gets threats from a fake Nostradamus character who turns out to be a fellow futurist colleague. Physical threats come from a secretive duo known as Johnson and Johnson, who have hired him to spit out even more lies in front of a camera crew and the media, only to be followed by locals in a Middle East country who are hired to kill him.
Throughout it all, he drinks vodka and whatever other strong poison is available to keep him going and believe in the lies for just a little while longer.
There was a time when Yates believed that science had a heart, that progress had a conscious, and that true art happened in the last synapse before epiphany....in the unstoppable momentum of an original idea. And for awhile, he could get others to believe this also -- because of him.
He once helped a record label create a lifelike digital synthespian version of an immensely talented female R&B singer who was deemed too fat for mass market consumption and whose subsequent debut DC went platinum. Once a very rich man paid him to moderate a focus group in which twelve people handled and discussed at length the very rich person's personal belongings while the man sat alone on the other side of a two-way mirror.
Yates makes it through the living lies to a point where he thinks, just maybe he can look at himself in the mirror and do something positive in the world again. As for giving back, his ego and narcissism took over too long ago for him to remember how to give back, however through a combination of humility, death, violence, near jail time in an Italian cell, his encounter with a hooker, a few thugs, government officials and his own internal crumbling, Othmer's Yates gives us humorous and yet thought provoking insights into life in the fast lane, a lane that is more often than not, a sad, lonely and spiritually empty one.
September 22, 2010
Ellroy's Hilliker Curse
The year was 1958. Jean Hilliker had divorced her fast-buck hustler husband and resurrected her maiden name. Her son, James, was ten years old. He hated and lusted after his mother and “summoned her dead.” She was murdered three months later.
An 'out-there' memoire, The Hilliker Curse is a predator’s confession, a treatise on guilt and on the power of malediction, and above all, a cri de cœur. James Ellroy unsparingly describes his shattered childhood, his delinquent teens, his writing life, his love affairs and marriages, his nervous breakdown, and the beginning of a relationship with an extraordinary woman who may just be the long-sought Her.
A layered narrative of time and place, emotion and insight, sexuality and spiritual quest, The Hilliker Curse is a soul-baring revelation of self. Elroy in action on YouTube, in a discussion with his publisher about the book and in The Guardian.
August 13, 2010
New Photo Books Now Out: Faces of London and Post Apartheid KidsI've been working on a series of Photo Books of various eclectic and wonderful places around the world - from American cities and cafes to people, places, designs and architecture in Europe, Africa and Central America. The first two are now out: Faces of London and Post Apartheid Kids. Below is a little background and a sneak peak of each.
Faces of London shows the surprises you get from walking through the streets of London. If you spend enough time people watching, you'll notice a wide range diversity of cultures who now call themselves Londoners -- from countless countries around the world.
Did you know that at the time of the Roman Invasion, London was called Londinium? In Saxon times, it was referred to as Lundenwic, and during the Kingdom of Alfred the Great, the city was known as Lundenberg? It is a city rich in history, diversity and miraculous transitions.
Today, London represents countless cultures from around the world. Regardless of what part of the city you're in, the experience is always breathtaking, energizing and stimulating. Ask someone a question and be challenge and inspired at the same time -- again and again. Faces of London shows these transitions. It shows London's diversity through beautiful, colorful shots of its people in a wide range of neighborhoods throughout the city. From east to west and north to south, join us on this colorful and artistic journey.
Below, you can get a sneak preview of Faces of London:
Post Apartheid Kids takes you on a journey through various parts of South Africa - both rural and urban - capturing wonderful and surprising moments of children in a post-Apartheid world.
Take a journey through a post-Apartheid South Africa and see it in the eyes of its children. It's a visual story of one child's face after another -- their smiles, their eyes, and their energy. Because of deeply-rooted pains of South Africa's complex past, we don't ask to forget, but we do ask for a harmonious life for the next generation.
We meander from Johannesburg, the Transvaal and Venda in the north through to Natal, Swaziland, the Orange Free State, the Highlands, the Cape and the beautiful and desolate Karoo.
Below, you can get a sneak preview of Post Apartheid Kids:
August 01, 2010
You Are Not a Gadget.....at Least if You Live Outside Silicon Valley!I chatted with Jaron Lanier in a sunny courtyard at Stanford University last week during the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit.
His latest book: You are Not a Gadget, takes a controversial look at how we should and shouldn't embrace technology and where we should spend our efforts versus where the government should step in and why.
From a brief synopsis of his book: "for the most part, Web 2.0--Internet technologies that encourage interactivity, customization, and participation--is hailed as an emerging Golden Age of information sharing and collaborative achievement, the strength of democratized wisdom. Jaron Lanier doesn't buy it. He argues the opposite: that unfettered--and anonymous--ability to comment results in cynical mob behavior, the shouting-down of reasoned argument, and the devaluation of individual accomplishment. Lanier traces the roots of today's Web 2.0 philosophies and architectures (e.g. he posits that Web anonymity is the result of 1960s paranoia), persuasively documents their shortcomings, and provides alternate paths to "locked-in" paradigms. Though its strongly-stated opinions run against the bias of popular assumptions (particularly in Silicon Valley), he seeks a useful, respectful dialogue about how we can shape technology to fit culture's needs, rather than the way technology currently shapes us."
Lanier suggests that people think we are more decentralized but we’re not. He says, "Everyone who wants to make the most money and are trying to get closer to the biggest server with the most power – they’re trying to get more and more central – there’s an all or nothing mentality. Innovation is important, but in the longer term, we have to get away from the winner takes all dynamic and that’s what is happening with the network effect – not just in Silicon Valley, but for the human species. When you see Facebook winning, it's just another niche winner."
He also thinks there's a role for government and that should be in the boring nuts and bolts back-end that we don't really care about. He thinks we should all have a single account that works everywhere; you should be able to buy and sell on it universally and this function should be a government one. "Government is good because it gives you currency." Set up this way, he suggests that people can make up a thousand niches rather than us relying on Facebook or Steve Jobs-like control freaks to give us what they create. Lanier would like to see more Zynga-like companies in the world. "I like the idea of building companies that create wealth for others."
July 09, 2010
A Look at Godin's Linchpin: Get Uncomfortable & Get out the CowbellThose who are already fans of Seth Godin's work will find his latest book Linchpin among his best, if not his best, and those who have never heard of him will get glimpses of his words of wisdom from his previous works of art Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow and others.
A world renown branding and marketing expert, Godin's lessons and pitch to the world is really about how to live an authentic life. Sure, I love his writing and agree in principle with everything I've read, yet the real magic comes when you realize the power of meshing his Buddhist-like approach to being present, choosing happiness and YOU as the leader in charge of your life and making hard painful decisions to leave complacency and fear behind so you can start creating your real art.
He begins by reminding us what century we're living in. In other words, things have dramatically changed - we no longer have to be a faceless cog in the machinery of capitalism. We now have a choice, as the migration completes itself from two teams (management and labor) to a third team - the linchpins.
We no longer need to be faceless cogs in a bureaucratic mediocre system. We can choose our own path by stepping into our art in the same way other linchpins have done: Colonel Sanders, Jack Bauer in 24, Michael Jackson, Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, Oprah. This is what Linchpins do - they step out of the faceless system, draw their own maps and create art that matters. Consider "this art" that you are here in this world to create, as gifts that change people and potentially change the way the world thinks.
He brings us back into the mediocre world - you know, where 'average' comes from. Among other things, he blames traditional schools which have conditioned us to do 'our jobs' and follow instructions. It makes us feel safe to fit in, doesn't it, but following the status quo has never made anyone indispensable.
Let's revisit the 'safe to fit in' part. If you think about it, when you feel most alive, the moments you can remember where you are in your zone and doing remarkable work, ask yourself, "were you fitting in or were you stepping out on a limb and creating art?" In these moments, the Linchpin took over and pushed the Lizard Brain aside. Seth refers to the Lizard Brain as the persistent obstacle that sets us back. The Lizard Brain often sabotages the progress we have made and stops us from creating our best work. Refer to a great post Seth wrote on 'quieting the lizard brain.'
The Lizard Brain stops us from saying what we think is important at the right time, and holds us back from making remarkable things.
|Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you've got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you're learning to say it better.--David Mamet|
Where Seth merges from taking ownership of living and winning in your own life to the business world is the crossroads where the same principles apply to the products and services you are trying to sell. You can win in the short term on selling cheaper, faster or even the best quality but where you really earn your place in the market is with humanity and leadership. He asserts: "the only way to get what you're worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people deeply care about."
When you do the latter my friend, not only do you win and start living a remarkable life, but so will the products and services you represent. They'll take on a life of their own because that authenticity and remarkableness will ensure that your what you create is true art, whether that be a physical product, how you interact with a customer or recommendations you make to a client.
This question and response is probably one of my favorites in the whole book and there are a lot of really great take aways: "Why is society trying so hard to kill our natural-born artists?" When we try to drill and practice someone into subservient obedience, we're stamping out the artist that lives within.
What average managers and CEOs don't embrace is the notion that the universe always provides when we allow creativity and gifts to flow back and forth, somehow not only do we win, but thrive. Zappos' corporate philosophy is a great example of this. The more you give, the more the market gives back reminds Seth. "Abundance is possible, but only if we can imagine it and then embrace it."
He talks about the NEW American Dream and how to live it, the one that markets around the world are embracing:
--Make judgment calls
--connect people and ideas
...and we have no choice but to reward you.
As always, Godin weaves humor into his work with titles like Would Shakespeare Blog? People will Laugh at me and Anxiety and Shenpa, the latter being a Tibetan word that roughly means 'scratching the itch.'
And, as always, he talks about the importance of passion. It's no surprise that the most successful client relationships I've ever had are with ones who are also musicians or artists. There's a line at the bottom of my business card that says "Those Who See The Invisible, Can Do The Impossible." Some people read it and are confused or even worse, don't even notice it because they don't live their lives paying attention to where remarkable may show up in the details. Others read it, pause, nod and with intention either say "nice, really nice" or something to that effect. And, others get excited and say, I love this. Chances are I wouldn't have an outstanding relationship with the former group of individuals but would be able to collectively create magic with the latter.
Let's go back to passion. Godin puts it in these parameters: passion isn't project specific, it's people specific. Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate. He goes on, "perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen. The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin."
So by now, you surely have an idea of what it mean to be a linchpin as defined by Godin. Among other things we have discussed, it's the person who makes a connection when it's not part of their job. That connection becomes a gift. Being open is art. And art is a gift.
Enter the Lizard Brain again because I know we've all had this experience. You work hard, you create your art and it falls on deaf ears. We didn't please everyone and Lizard Brain steps in to pull you back into the mediocre world to ensure you're safe and accepted by all. Remember the rejection that painter Jackson Pollock suffered through before critics declared him a genius. All of us want to make our art for an audience at the end of the day - we hope to change someone as a result of it; we likely even want to change ourselves in the process.
There must have been some mentor or friend in your life who told you before you reached adulthood - you can't please everyone -- and nor should you try. The same applies to your creations. Seth puts it in this way, "if you don't pinpint your audience, you end up making your art for the loudest, crankiest critics. And, that's a waste. Instead, focus on the audience that you choose, and listen to them, to the exclusion of all others. Go ahead and make this sort of customer happy, and the others can go pound sand." Well said Seth.
He refers to Steven Pressfields The War of Art, where Pressfield calls our inability to easily free the daemon "the resistance." Enter Seth's powerful chapter on the Resistance, a tough chapter for those fighting the shift.
Here's the resistance at work - it's your Lizard Brain again, which is the part that the daemon has no control over. He writes, "it (lizard brain) will invent stories, illnesses, emergencies, and distractions in order to keep the genius bottled up. The resistance is afraid. Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if the ideas get out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens."
There is something that Tony Robbins always brings up in every seminar I've ever attended and every one of his books I've ever read: "the quality of our life is in direct proportion to the amount of discomfort (and I'd add uncertainty) we allow ourselves to live with," or something to that effect. (Tony - sorry if I got the exact quote wrong)
You get the point. Seth is on board with living and breathing this value as well and brings it up with examples throughout the book. He says, "the road to comfort is crowded and it rarely gets you there. Ironically, it's those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing. Inevitably, we exaggerate just how uncomfortable we are."
I'll add - discomfort not only brings engagement and change but passion, purpose, and our true art to rise to the top and make a difference.
As I make my way through the book, I see a lot of life lessons from one of my favorite authors and buddhist thinkers: Pema Chodron, and then later, Seth references her. Why am I not surprised to learn that he's also a fan? I've read every one of her books and if you haven't, don't miss out on learning from her bright light and inspiration.
The place where Pema's insights come into play is his section on Anxiety. What Seth suggests is the very Buddhist (very Pema -- sit with it and be present) route. Frankly, it's the only way. Not only can you not unleash the Linchpin inside you if you feed that anxiety, but you'll never feel at peace with your choices or the world around you.
Sit with it, acknowledge it, explore it, watch it, befriend it...and just when you feel that its getting overwhelming and you want to flee, sit with it even longer. I've done this time and time again (I just wish I were better at it), and a funny thing happens. The pain, the suffering, the resistance starts to dissipate and fade away. It works but it's not easy to do particularly if you're new to it and even moreso, if it involves a place or person or thing that has had you in a "stuck" comfortable position for years. Time to move on.
The last thing I'll mention in reference to his book is the concept of SHIPPING. Think about how many things you've started over the years and not finished. You never shipped the damn thing - your precious art. Somewhere the Lizard Brain showed up and its annoying "it's not safe out there" little voice came up with excuses, "I don't have the time, I don't have enough money, I don't have the resources, the product or service wasn't perfect."
I have spent my life helping companies SHIP...products, services, websites, blogs, books, movies. We always ship, but sometimes the art wasn't good enough, or the timing was off, or we shipped into a market that wasn't ready for it. There were other times when we shipped the wrong thing and the real art was the idea that got tossed because the idea was too "big" - perhaps too much of a "purple cow" - for the team to handle. Fear set in. Resistance took over. The Lizard Brain won.
As I read this section and thought about how many products and services I did ship, I was brought back to the one I'm trying to ship now and how long it is taking to launch. It still hasn't shipped - part of me wants it to be perfect, part of me wants the art to be just right and part of me wants the plan to finished before I give it some wings.
The bottom line is that whenever there is lack of movement and progress, I can't sleep at night. Why? Because this launch is created from nothing but passion, nothing but art....so the conflict is between serving clients on the other side and serving my art on the other. The art will ship this month, ready or not, because I've set a date. Setting a hard date with a goal next to it moves idea and poetry in motion to reality and increase the likelihood of getting to go.
Getting to go and releasing your gift is what its about. Linchpins, he writes are "geniuses, artists and givers of gifts. They bring humanity to work, they don't leave it at home. The hard work isn't lifting or shoving or sharpening. the hard work is being brave enough to make a difference."
I'll end on a humorous but reflective note from a title in his next to the last chapter: Making the choice: MORE COWBELL. I'm not sure what visual that brings up for you but as a New Englander, it brings up a real cowbell, an old rusty burgundy cowbell that sat in our den which we used as a dinner bell when we threw large dinner parties at holiday time.
I still have that cowbell and it looks out of place in my 1930s townhouse on a steep San Francisco hill. I don't have reason to use it anymore although I've decided I'm going to think of a way to give it some life again, even if its only a few times a year. It will serve as a symbolic reminder to everyone who hears it that we all need to get out our cowbells more often than we do and ring them loudly.
As Seth so rightfully points out, "the funny thing is that learning how to add joy, create art, or contribute humanity is a lot easier than learning how to play the guitar. For some reason, we work on the technique before we worry about adding the joy."
Why not start with the joy and work backwards and see where it brings you?
Seth, thanks for shipping Linchpin, a beautifully written, engaging and inspirational contribution.
June 15, 2010
Linchpins are Everywhere: Dive for Cover!!Linchpins Everywhere, Linchpins Everywhere -- dive for cover!! Seth Godin's latest book: Linchpin which I am 75% the way through, is one of his best. It is written in Seth's usual free flowing style with conviction and passion throughout but manages to call you to action on every page. I plan to post a book review once I turn the very last page.
As always, he's straight forward. There are chapter subheads like: Where do you hide your brilliance? When did the resistance take over your life? Where do you put the fear? And, who are you trying to please?
He's also funny: Would Shakespeare blog? From Superhero to Mediocreman (and Back Again), The Problem with Bowling, Throwing Yourself Under the Bus, and Why the Lizard Brain Wants You to be Stuck?
Tony Robbins uses a figure eight metaphor to refer to our "stuck-ness". There we are climbing the ladder towards brilliance, creativity and joy and just before we get there, we sabotage yourself because emotionally, it is as much as your 'lizard brain' can handle). In order to feel safe, sabotage sets in and down you go back to the bottom of that figure 8 circle until you're so bored, frustrated, sad and pissed off that you fight your way back up again until lizard brain takes over and the cycle repeats itself.
This week, I decided to go to an unofficial Linchpin meet-up because frankly I love Godin's work, his writing, his thinking and this damn book. It turns out and little did I know, that 819 of these events are scheduled across the world and many have already happened.
Below is a video I shot at the end, where individuals came to the front of San Francisco's Georges' bar and pitched their "linchpin" project in 60 seconds to attendees. By "linchpin" project, I am referring to their passion, the thing that brings out their talent and brilliance, the thing that calls their authentic voice, and the thing that makes their hearts sing. The group was a combination of entrepreneurs, bloggers and non-profit evangelists. Have a listen: