Archive for March, 2014

Try to make Lemon (something)

lemon-battery-voltageIt turns out that good lemonade requires more than lemons. Nevertheless when what you have are lemons you’re best served to use them. That’s the lesson, right? It’s a nice saying but realistically it usually will not work in the real world with real problems.

Still, there is rarely harm in trying, and on the occasion it does work there can be a nice upside. Maybe your lemonade isn’t tasty, but it might be useful as a cleaning product.

It’s necessary to take some action. The lemons you are given have little chance of being worth much to you without it.

4 Parameters for Communication


Few know, and fewer care about the complexities and challenges of your job or cause. From afar nobody inherently cares much about what you have to say about anything. If you want or need them to, then the burden is on you to find a way to communicate effectively. To inspire. And that is arguably one of the more error riddled and problematic aspects of modern society, which belies how important it is.

At its core the basics aren’t that complicated. Have a look at the four basic elements.

Amplitude — What you say must be spoken loud enough to be heard, but it goes far beyond that. We want to use our amplitude to be noticed. Maybe you need to speak louder, but maybe you could whisper. Of course we often communicate best with our actions.

Medium — The conduit through which you choose to reach out makes a difference in how it is perceived. For a dramatic example, consider the power of merely the words “I love you” compared to combining them with a sensitive touch. This area gets a lot of play today with new platforms for communicating emerging regularly. The number of options is large, and therefore offers us many opportunities – from whatever role and to whatever audience we are communicating. Open yourself to them and the applicability of any particular one or two in some context will become more clear to you.

Frequency — For a communication to be heard and remembered, you will likely have to say it more than once. Why? There is lots of noise and distractions in our lives. There is lots of competition for our ideas. And, as you’ve probably heard before, “repetition is the mother of learning.” If you want to be an effective communicator, you must be willing to share your points over and over. BUT, you can’t continually just parrot yourself. If the repetition is too apparent or frequent to your intended audience you move your cause backwards. You instead have to find different ways to move your message forward. Different contexts where it applies and looks different. But one way or the other some repetition is generally necessary. (By the way, that last sentence was repetition!)

Message — Want your message to be heard and remembered? Then make the message memorable. Think slogans (Just Do It) and alliteration (“Perfect practice makes perfect.”). Think metaphor and analogy (how is your point or situation like something else that is unrelated?). Think acronym or acrostic (where the first letters of the message spell out a real word). Stories are great at cementing a point. Graphics, videos, pretty much anything that effectively appeals to emotions works. These devices provide a shorthand for and a touchstone to your message. And they work because they take into account how our brains work.

Another, more powerful way, is if the message is personal to the recipient. If it strikes some nerve, or appeals to something we perceive as important. You usually have to know your audience to do that, but if you do it’s very effective.

Saying isn’t enough; you must be heard. Rather than lamenting the lack of listening by others, remarkable leaders take responsibility for communicating more powerfully and more effectively.

When the Mojo Goes…

…spend more money.LettingGo

Facebook, after trying to acquire Snapchat did acquire Whatsap. For $19 Billion. Most believe it’s a good acquisition for them and will be part of what helps keep them relevant a while longer.

The phases a company goes through can be remarkably like the phases one goes through in life. Early on there is passion fueled by want, or even need. Later, when you’re fat and relatively content, passion wanes. You may actually feel less happy. Instead money is spent to try to buy the happiness or passion that was lost. Or you find other things to use as substitutes. Soon you learn that only slightly delays the inevitable.

You have to really change. Companies and people often find it impossible to do without forces at work greater than ourselves. Even then it’s extremely difficult. And it often doesn’t look like what we would think it should look like.

General Electric is the only company still in existence that appeared on the original Dow Industrial Average back in 1896. Surprise you? GE? Of course they did it through innovation and great leadership. And an ability to let things go that don’t make sense.

That’s the hard part. The letting go. If only we as individuals could do the same.



Personal Note — Why Publish it?


I love provocative questions. They invariably trigger growth and better self awareness. I am fortunate to have a few friends who can lay one on me from time to time.

Why publish a blog or photographs I take? Why release music I work on? Not, why do I write it, but why publish it? The intrinsic value in most creative outlets is what makes them worth doing…isn’t it? So why publish?

It has to be for some type of validation, no? But I don’t get much validation on these things. Hardly anyone reads this blog, or cares to listen to any music I work on, or anything else. That doesn’t detract from it, and in some ways can be an advantage.

Why tell someone how you really feel when it can complicate things?

The reason is because when you hold it all inside you rob yourself of any chance to connect. You’re safer that way in most respects, because not as much can happen. In fact very little can happen. When you put it out there the possibilities are virtually endless. One genuine connection, or one instance of giving someone something that helps them makes it all worth it.

All that work; all that emotional energy to maybe make one little dent in the world. It hardly seems worth it…until you see that light come on somewhere.

Besides, artists are suffering anyway. There’s no way to not create it. It’s just a matter of whether one wants to go it all alone.






• The bureaucracy of Government Health Care

• Standardized Testing in Schools

• Regulatory Commissions that stifle commerce

• Micro Managing

All are symptoms of a failure. Things weren’t turning out well so someone had to step in to look after it. And not surprisingly, in many cases the ones who step in not only don’t understand some of the challenges, but also have a different background set of concerns driving their agenda — what they pay attention to.

And so it is very annoying, and in the end improvements, if any, are usually modest and often offset by new problems that manifest.

If someone hires you to run a lemonade stand and you don’t make money you can basically expect one of four results.

  1. Be fired
  2. Be left alone to continue to fail
  3. Be micro managed
  4. Be more effectively managed

The probability of the best outcome is not great. If you know best, and if you want to keep your boss or government out of your business then you best be producing the desired outcomes. This means you first need to know what are considered the best outcomes.

Teachers, for instance, may be in a no win situation because our definition of what it means to “educate” a child has changed. They failed. And now we have standardized testing and no child left behind (among others). It may look a little better on the surface, but the underlying problems are worse than ever.

There have been ample opportunities for insurance reform in the past few decades. Apparently enough people in power thought it was working well enough. You could argue they got what was coming to them.

It’s all bad management. Again, if you want to keep bad management away then you need to produce results. It’s really hard (not impossible). But those are the rules.

Suffering Through Art


Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak — and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. There’s often angst of one type or another behind any great art.

The rest of us get to benefit from their suffering.

There can be some intrinsic value to suffering. The psychology of post-traumatic growth suggests that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and — most importantly for creativity — seeing new possibilities in life.

Then there is the art.

Check out this link. It’s a less than three minute interview snip with Phil Collins from 2007 about a song he wrote circa 1979 in the band Genesis (listen all the way to the end) around the time his marriage was breaking up. The ad hoc performance is a little raw, but that only goes to further illustrate the point. The song was nearly 20 years old at this time and the pain is still evident. Guilt and regret hanging over someone who has been staggeringly successful by nearly any measure one can put on it. Phil and others have made careers out of suffering through their art.

But sometimes there is just the art. And sometimes there is just the suffering.

What Does a Guarantee Mean?

money_back_GuaranteeWe are linguistic beings. As such we understand things through language. Language and meanings shift over time.

A guarantee used to denote a promise of performance or effectiveness. Now it’s a marketing term designed to give a consumer enough confidence to order. They think it will work, but it’s unlikely in today’s fast paced economy that there has been enough testing to truly guarantee performance. You order it, and if it doesn’t perform the promise the guarantee gives you is that you’ll be able to get your money back.

The onus is on the consumer now. Thus goes the inevitable race to zero.



What a corporation needs:

  • Fertile ground in which to conduct business. This includes…
  • A population who has enough belief that they have a say in things to carry on.
  • A population who believes (enough) that consumption, in whatever form(s) it may take, yields enough satisfaction in life to remain content.
  • A population predictable enough to manipulate somewhat easily.

Democracy — we appear to have a say. Sort of like the child who is allowed to decide between milk or water.

Military — the capacity to fight wars to make the world secure for business (corporations). Our personal security, to whatever extent it really exists, is also a useful byproduct.

Religion — keeps us relatively happy and docile. When things seem exceptionally shitty we can find solace there. Our sensibilities are more predictable. Manipulatable.

Quality of life — is often rated according to a simple triangulation on a few parameters: perceived security and autonomy, belonging, and belongings.

It can be easily argued that the world contains a corporate totalitarian core thriving inside a fictitious democratic shell. Few recognize this ‘inverted’ totalitarian state because it looks nothing like the Orwellian images we’ve been given of such a condition. The world is being militarized by the significant states and their ‘police forces.’ State surveillance is becoming universal and torture is outsourced to gulags.

In past times simple folk usually couldn’t work out how they were being manipulated by royal monarchies, and the papal monarchy, who claimed a ‘divine right to rule.’ Ordinary people from those times couldn’t see how the rivalrous network of elites were actually linked through similar goals and ideals, not least because the illiterate masses were indoctrinated to believe in their humble lot, to obey divinely-endorsed authority and to live in fear of damnation. And pay taxes.

We see more compelling arguments that the planet is more than ever ruled by super-wealthy people who use their outrageous fortunes to steer the trajectories of whole societies for their material and political gain. Armies of professional, political, religious and even military elites serve them. Together they comprise a highly-networked ‘capitalist’ class. ‘Free markets’ are spread with the idea that they deliver the individual freedom and prosperity for all.

This may be a conspiracy theory or it may be true, though there is no doubt some truth in it. Either way we go along because it’s all we know, and because we’re focused on our own individual relatively incremental improvements in life we can see and feel first hand. It’s not a terrible life. It’s all we know how to do. We are given schools and religion, that also train us to be compliant and content. We’re reasonably comfortable most of the time, and we are shown examples of some who appear to rise to the status of ‘rich,’ or some other highly regarded status that looks fulfilling. They aren’t fundamentally different from us.

Our society basically works for most people. And that really is the best disguise.

What if the Universe Was Created Yesterday

…with all your memories in tact, rings in trees, layers of rock, everything fully evolved? Possible? Yes. Probable?


The mind is an effect of the brain…

It’s capable of much and ultimately responsible for our entire perception of…everything. Our entire sense of interoception could be fake. Electrochemical manifestations in the brain may give rise to a myriad of possible realities for us.

We’re not sure exactly what things like intuition really are. Most likely good guesses born out of relevant past experiences, but in extreme cases it seems like more. Hard to always explain.

Not knowing or understanding leaves room for all sorts of fantastic ideas to take root. Is the universe ‘real’ as we perceive it? The rational mind posits that it mostly is. But we know some of it is wrapped up in our perceptions. What we don’t know is where that line is. What is objective reality and how much if it is just in the way we perceive?

Accepting that a significant amount of what one perceives and believes is an invention of the mind is a wise way to approach life. You’re not likely to find out in your lifetime (or ever) so move with humility. And try to maintain that sense of wonder.

The Result of Answers

MountainCloudWe seek answers. We read, watch…learn.

What happens when we get one?

We stop learning. We stop seeking. Stop questioning. Have you ever seen someone accept a wrong explanation of something because it makes sense? Once it makes sense to us we are satisfied.

We don’t have to wonder where man comes from if religion gives us an answer we accept. If scientists give us an explanation of carbon dating that seems credible we don’t have to wonder about it…unless it conflicts with something else we have accepted as being true. Political dogma and generalizations…in general apply.

Belief, in whatever we happen to believe in, cements those answers for us, and relieves us from the burden of having to consider it anymore. There’s a lot of useful efficiency to be gained from that acceptance (where would we be if we had to keep proving how to find the area of a circle?), but it’s pretty dangerous as well. Once we are ‘sold‘ our tendency is to remain so.

We blow it a lot, because while we appear to seek knowledge, what’s really going on is motivated by the need for the feeling of contentment that arises out of knowing.


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