Surfing Ambiguity

Day 336 Week 49 Q4 Sunday, December 3, 2023

We are all in many oceans, much of the time, but even one is enough to require skill. When waves are coming in from multiple directions, it helps to be in a boat, even if it is a very small one. 

Your identity can be like a small boat that rises and falls along with the swell of the waves but rarely capsizes or a giant one that cuts through the waves most of the time, leaving you largely unaware of their size or direction.

Large boats require crews to operate, and in small ones, there is only you. As life comes at you from more than one direction, there can certainly be ambiguity in how to respond when out on the seas.

Many people act as though they have never been on a boat, out of a harbor, or at the mercy of the waves.  Perhaps enough wealth, health and youth can make you feel invulnerable to the waves so you never think of them, or perhaps you feel confident enough to frolic in them.

Your attitude and identity impact the ride. Are you cruising along or surfing? Do you like the adrenaline rush of dealing with ambiguity? Or do you crave the stability of a fixed platform not even anywhere near the water? 

Maybe you enjoy the dynamic range of both? Maybe you can cope with both but do not enjoy them equally? Is your life one of coping or one of surfing? Do you even like getting wet? Or can’t you remember the last time? Are you ossified or flexbile? Do you have enough bone mass and density to take a hit?  Are you excited to get up every morning to see what the conditions of the seas are?

Does uncertainty strike fear or exhilaration into your heart? Are you able to surf ambiguity? Do you even believe there is ambiguity, or does your life look like a placid lake? All of these variables are contained in each life if you are truly alive, not simply existing, but the degree to which this experience is welcome can be extremely time-varying.

The ability to predict what is coming is something most people crave. The knowing that you can not make some people weak in the knees. And then there are the surfers who deliberately go out into the waves, both physically when they are young and metaphorically when they are not.

Does there come a time when surfing is a bad idea? Does the idea of being safe, secure, and totally able to predict what is coming to seem appealing or like death? For me, it is like death. I have no desire to know in advance what is happening because it is an illusion. You do not know what is happening and when it will happen. You are as in a small boat or maybe even an inner tube bobbing around.

You just may not know it or accept it. But make no mistake; we are all including the rich and powerful, surfing ambiguity because that is all there is.

Ideational inventory

Day 321 Week 44 Q4 Saturday, November 18, 2023

“You must have chaos within you in order to give birth to a dancing star,”  Friedrich Nietzsche.

Have you ever felt like you knew exactly what you wanted to do, and you knew exactly how you wanted to do it, and you knew what you wanted to get out of it, but there was so much swirling around within you that it felt like chaos? You are not alone. It may take order and organization to restructure things, but it also takes dissembling the prior order, and there are periods of chaos that have to be navigated.

Every time a door or window closes, there becomes a new opportunity to be explored. Actually, there becomes an entire pile of opportunities and, along with them, a pile of responsibilities. I kind of love the opportunity and hate the responsibilities. But they are intertwined. You don’t get to go to a new place without first having to do at least a little bit of packing and mobilizing what you need to bring with you.

Even if the mobilizing is just mobilizing your thoughts, they still need to be packed up and organized in some way so that you can bring them somewhere. You need to think of how to deploy your insights. If you never deploy them, you may run out of room to store them all.  Sometimes, when you have too much inventory, it is time to have a sale or at least do a promotional event to get rid of some of it. I frequently feel like I have too many thoughts. Perhaps this is an ideational inventory.

What can you do with an ideational inventory? Well, in theory, you can change the world. It all depends on the quality of the ideas and what you do with them. If they are stillborn because there is no deployment plan, then it doesn’t matter how good they are. If you have a magnificent plan for getting them out into the world, but they aren’t any good, that doesn’t matter either.

There is always a set of trade-offs in every situation. It has been said that you cannot do something excellent quickly. That you have to choose between speed and quality. This is not necessarily true. You may have to spend a lot of time learning how to do something very well and very quickly, and after making that investment, you may be able to become a faucet of ideas that can be turned on, and high-quality ideas can spew out quickly, perhaps too quickly, to be useful.

It is precisely how you manage this chaos inside, your ideational inventory that determines your efficacy in the world. But don’t expect to get away with having no chaos, for entropy is a natural outcome of life. But it can be overcome with conscious, well-managed activity. 

Manage the chaos within it and turn it into an ideational inventory that can be deployed!

Selling Time

Day 320 Week 44 Q4 Thursday, November 16, 2023

Have you ever finally completed a work, which could be a product that represents who you are in the world and what you want to be, and that you are proud enough of the result to go out and really sell it? And to also have the understanding that you are also selling yourself with this product.

It is a glorious feeling. All creative outliers have to earn a living along with everyone else unless they have inherited wealth or have a patron. I prefer the stakeholder path, where a group of people helps you, and you also try to make sure they get something in return for helping you. Just as I do not want to receive money without turning it in, which is why I am no longer interested in running a nonprofit. I am not comfortable asking for money, but I am comfortable earning money.

This is not so simple. I am not comfortable earning money doing something that I either do not want to do or do not think is producing any value in the world. I had no problem going out and selling the acoustic wave piano because I knew that it would positively change people’s lives, and it did. It also created a brand new mark for the self-contained electro-acoustical piano, which to this day sells at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, if not billions internationally.

That product came into being almost 40 years ago, and it was the last product. I was really excited about selling. I was also excited about bringing audio to the computer world and selling it while working at Apple.  But this is a different feeling. This time, I am not working for a large company. I am working for myself. I own all of the intellectual property, rights, and credit; although I had a lot of help, it is indisputably my work, and I can finally say that to the world, and this will not be the last one. This is the first of many.

This is clearly the path for me. I do want to have a me-sized company with a single person; although there could be contractors, there will not be people with equity. There is a single person in charge, and it is me. I very much like this feeling, and I am very much up to accepting the responsibility to make it succeed or fail.

The democratization of technology has reduced the barriers to entry to commence new enterprises. You do not necessarily need to have a manufacturing plant or a laboratory, or even a studio. You can have an idea and some skills and judgment and some capital and a lot of hours of work, and you can make something happen.

And as my father-in-law says, Go Forth Mightily!

AI Creative Responsability

Day 318 Week 44 Q4 Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Spreadsheets gave us artificial accuracy, and now AI has given us artificial experts.  Social media has given us artificial relationships, and I fully expect robots to give us artificial sex. Hey, I think AI, social media, spreadsheets, GPS, self-driving cars, and robots are all really interesting, but they do not get people off the hook from having sound judgment and knowing what is going on. I also feel the same way about hiring consultants and going to doctors. Advice needs to be qualified. I will happily absorb as much information and insight as I can, but I am not turning over final responsibility or judgment to anyone or anything except myself.

When I was first exposed to computers 60 years ago, I felt like they were not very useful and ignored them for a few years. After all, punch cards were a lot slower than I was at doing simple calculations myself. And since I was just a kid of 11, these were the only kind of calculations I was trying to perform at the time. But it became clear that they were far too powerful to ignore, and if I wanted to be any kind of a scientist or engineer, I was going to have to learn how to use computers, which I did by the time I was 17.

Artificial intelligence has also been around just about that long, and what was not feeling very useful then is becoming increasingly valuable and, in fact, so powerful that no one can ignore AI. In terms of leverage, it is already compelling and will become increasingly more so every day. I recently learned a new word: quintillion. Evidently, there are now supercomputers that can perform more than two quintillion calculations per second. 

A quintillion is a ten raised to the exponent of 18 or 10 to the 18th. It took a few minutes to wrap my brain around that. A quintillion can also be understood as either a billion billion or 1 million million million. Although it currently takes 60,000 GPUs to pull this off, if things continue to go the way they have been for the last 50 years, we are going to have an even more absurd amount of computational bandwidth than we do now.

I already have guitars with built-in digital signal processors and multiple amplifiers and interfaces with built-in digital signal processors, all capable of doing real-time audio signal processing.  When I was in graduate school, it took a $2 million computer 20 minutes to analyze 20 ms of sound.  I now have hundred-dollar boxes that fit in my pocket, which are well over 60,000 times faster.  Round this off to a million times cheaper and 100,000 times faster. This is serious and ubiquitous democratization of technology.

Will it be as powerful and benign as my pocketable audio signal processors? Perhaps and perhaps not. We had better each be paying attention and not simply assume that there is anyone qualified to make pronouncements about where this is leading, but I am far more excited by the potential than afraid. But I am paying attention and dabbling to stay in the game of understanding the word we live in.

Habit Momentum

Day 316 Week 44 Q4 Monday, November 13, 2023

If you have established the right habits, they can carry you forward throughout the day. You do not have to be solving 1000 problems, you can just follow the steps. You have already set up for yourself providing they are flexible enough to deal with the complexities of life. This is not dealing with the complexities on the near side of them. It is instead having determined how to simplify a complex life by working out what to do and on the far side of complexity, then having a simpler situation.

This is one of the reasons to have an actionable vantage point. On the near side of that point, you may still be wondering what to do because you have not yet found the perspective from which to be able to view the solution set. But once you do get to an action of all vantage point, you can look down and see where you are, and where you would like to be, and therefore paths begin to emerge which are suitable to get you to where you need to go.

Being in that zone where you know what to do and you are doing it and it is not taking that much effort because you have habituated the appropriate behaviors, is a really sweet place to be. For, although there is work ahead of you, and it may not be simple, you know that you can do it, and that you are doing it, and that it will get you where you need to go.

So take care in defining what behaviors you think are worth habituating. For they are the ones which will really make your life a lot easier once you have driven them into your normal daily procedure. Whether it is meditating, journaling, doing breathing exercises, working out, or whatever you have to do to get your head in the right place psychologically, it is well worth doing this.

And once you have figured out how to take care of your psychological requirements, and are truly ready for the day, then it is worth developing some sort of a physical routine to cap it off. As when you enter the day, both psychologically and physically prepared, the chance of having a productive, fulfilling life that day go way up.

If you can get all of this done before your workday, commences, then you were ahead of the game of life. Of course unanticipated problems will show up, but they will not be a problem because you are prepared by having taken the time. To create habit momentum, which can carry you through the day. And as you refined these habits or automatic behaviors, they can carry you through large chunks of your life.

In Doubt? Zoom Out!

Day 296 Week 43 Q4 Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Almost all problems benefit from a zoomed-out perspective. When we are further away from what bothers us, we are less disturbed. When two people have a disagreement, zooming out often shows places where they agree, which then provides a framework for coming together and solving problems. This is also true of your own internal mind, which can easily be like two or more people about what to do in any particular circumstance.

Creative people are capable of a great many different perspectives. They tolerate ambiguity much better than close, minded people. Use that creativity to alter your perspective to one from which a more straightforward path appears. One of the first things that you can do with a broader perspective is to prioritize, which can be difficult when you are too close to a decision or a set of decisions.

We can actually only deal with one decision at a time, even though a great many divergent inputs may impact it. Furthermore, its decision ripples outward and affects many other things as well.  Even when attempting to act in the present moment, one has to be aware of both the past and the future, as the two are present in this moment.

In addition to zooming out to gain perspective, if there is time, it is also worth attempting to either diagram or list what you are seeing from this perspective. Especially if it is impacted by and will also impact significantly more complex circumstances than the single act.  Computers are especially good at this kind of idea capture because re-organizing the ideas is much easier than erasing or crossing out and re-writing.

Many programs allow you to drag and drop into new positions what you have written down because life is not linear, and one cannot presume a single order to be adequate. It is worth attempting to linearize your thoughts as long as you don’t come to believe that reality is linear because it never was and never will be.

The complex set of interdependencies modern life thrusts us into will not become simpler anytime soon unless we destroy the collaborative network, human beings, living.  We are all craving simplicity on the far side of complexity, not on the near side. The goal is not to put on blinders and pretend that the rest of the universe is not impinging upon us. The goal is to find a way to deal with the sum of the forces acting upon us through clear understanding, prioritization, and tolerating ambiguity, and this requires zooming out.

And therefore, when in doubt, zoom out.

Integrated PPF

Day 289 Week 42 Q4 Tuesday, October 17, 2023

If you are a water person, there is a single important piece of gear you tend to acquire to deal with large amounts of liquid flux. It used to be called a life preserver. They show up everywhere, from canoe trips, power boats, sailboats, ocean cruises, and even airplanes, but are now renamed personal floatation devices or PFDs. Since acronyms took over the world, everything got simpler, right? Well, that was the plan anyway.

Many of us now live in flux, in seas of change ranging from puddle-like to oceanic depending upon our circumstances, which also change externally and internally with stages of life and psyche. I have found it helpful to have something simple like a life preserver for chaotic times. I call it a PPF, not a PFD and this stands for trying to integrate (better than balance) my Psychological, Physical, and Fiscal well-being.

Seriously, there is change all around all of the time, but I find if I have integrated these three types of well-being, it does not matter much what the size of the waves are. The reason I say integrate instead of balance is because balancing requires continuous effort, but being integrated is a state one can reach, and it takes less effort to stay integrated than to be constantly rebalancing, especially for creative outliers who tend to rock the boat. 

Here is how it works to make it much simpler as a creative outlier and involuntary with the historical tendency to complexify more than to simplify. You are going to have a hard time being fiscally balanced when you are in poor physical shape, and you are also going to have a hard time being in decent physical shape if you are not in a state of psychological well-being.

Therefore, the simple equation is to get your head in the right place so you can actually do something physical to work out and not have to overeat for psychological reasons. If your psyche and body are doing okay, it is a lot easier to perform activities that have good fiscal consequences.

This may sound simple and obvious, but it has taken me a long time to learn that sustainable well-being requires that PPF order psyche, physical, and fiscal. If these can be integrated instead of getting unbalanced and then requiring rebalancing, this saves a lot of heartache, time, and effort. 

Integration is integral to integrity, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy being creative. Become PPF!

Does this seem relevant to your current or prior circumstances? Can you imagine a state where you can be more creative, supported by this stable underpinning?

Dual Actionable Vantage Points 

Day 104 Week 15 Q2 Saturday, April 15, 2023

Most of us are not involved in a single initiative at a time. The vantage point, which is optimal for one project, is not necessarily the same as for another one. They can be mutually exclusive. For example, your writing and musical performance careers require you to be in different parts of the world on the same day. 

Our complex multidimensional lives can look like a zero-sum game when reduced to linear hierarchical depictions. But we live in nonlinear times and could attend activities thousands of miles apart in minutes by succumbing to being digitally present for one or more activities. 

Is this less desirable? It depends on the perspective. Needing to be in more than one place at a time can increase the perceived value of your brand. Perhaps celebrities practice artificial scarcity? I have no idea, but they could. 

Is it better to put all of your eggs in a single vantage point to support a single career priority? Some people have had one career, one residence and one partner for their entire life. These people may have found a perfect set of dimensions to play in. Not everyone is so fortunate, so some either need to or prefer to be involved with life in multiple manners. It is certainly possible to pick Actionable Vantage Points dynamically, adjusting them as we progress in our desired direction. 

Some vantage points are near each other ideationally, not physically. Some of us juggle far more than two different actionable vantage points, but it helps if there is a way to view them as proximal. 

Some bookkeepers can maintain the books of a pet shop and a software consulting firm. Many jazz musicians play flute, sax and clarinet, and many bass players also play guitar, but fewer guitar players play bass for more reasons than it is worth mentioning here. Our marvelous brains can accommodate multiple careers, interests and relationships simultaneously carrying around multiple actionable vantage points. 

Find points of view that make things most clear. There is never a single point of view. Perspective is dynamic and time-varying, just as reality is. Most discord can be reduced or increased by changing perspective. Become fluid at changing perspectives to serve the situation and to serve you at the same time. 

Success is so rarely a linear path. Many celebrated people have faced discouragement and disappointment on their way to greatness. Finding the right perspective to combine it can be like crossing a portal into a superior parallel universe. 

But much of the time, you have to step back and find that appropriate perspective, and it may take many attempts to find the combination of AVPs that can support the goals and dreams you hold within you. 

One is on the way to two, and two is on the way to more than two. As soon as you can master Dual Actionable Vantage Points, you can then try more. 

Completion not Depletion

Day 85 Week 13 Q1  Sunday, March 26, 2023

You may have noticed that neither projects nor life seems to flow linearly, and for a good reason. Reality is not linear. Linearity is a construct we created to make life more understandable. The notion that creativity or research can be scheduled is pretty silly when you think about it. What, you would like to schedule the unknown? Nice try. But you can not de-risk what you do not know, and believe me; you do not know before you start, for if you did, what would be the reason to dive in and explore?  

Have you noticed that as you are beginning to approach the final push for the completion of a project, there can be a tendency to feel depleted? This is natural; you have been putting out energy for a while and want things to be done already. Did you think you knew what the last steps would be and find out they changed somehow? Hey, if this were not the case, you would be cranking out cookie-cutter new versions of the old. There is a choice; this is where Actionable Vantage Points come in. You can see the result, you can see where you are, and you can see the path, but you can not see all of the obstacles.  

This can deflate you or inflate you. It can deplete you or complete you. And you do have a choice. Take a break and get hold of some of your vital generative energy. You know, the rocket fuel that allows you to get liftoff and archive escape velocity.  You must have done this before, many times. Did you ever complete a project, perhaps a degree, a world tour, or an intellectual property generation process? When you fly a small plane and are taxiing down the runway, you must build up enough speed to take off. Is this a little more difficult than simply being on the ground or flying in the air? Of course, it is, but is it also more exciting? I mean, really exciting!  I have only flown the tiny Cessna 172, a plane that has been around for so many decades that very many people learned to fly with. And yes, taking off is initially a little scary but rapidly becomes very cool. The more times you do it, the cooler it gets and the less scary it gets, and finally, it is not scary at all.

Completing creative processes can be like this too. The more times you achieve escape velocity and get off the ground, the easier it becomes. Did you think musicians have no stage fright? You harness it and use it to perform better. In fact, if there were no risk of anything going wrong, it would be far less exciting for me. Overcoming uncertainty is the name of the game for me. When approaching the end of the diving board, you have a choice to do a hard dive like a double gainer, you can slow down and become depleted, or you can confidently run down the board and leap into the air.

Completion is the antidote to Depletion!

Actionable AI

Do you want a new vantage point pretty rapidly? Faster than ever before? Use a ChatBot! I am dead serious about this life-changing tech. And I have been around tech for several decades, rarely uttering these words. I was not interested in getting the first rev smartphone, tablet, electric car, or any other great technical breakthroughs until I let a few generations go by with the resulting iterating and debugging. My time became too valuable to jump on bandwagons when I broke 35. I was no longer willing to be a guinea pig. It even took me a few years to think that computers were worthwhile. But the day it became obvious that this was a tool too powerful to continue to ignore, I was forced to embrace it around 1970.

AI has been just around the corner for many decades, but that significant corner has been turned, perhaps more so for creative outliers than anyone else. I am not talking about the fiscal, ethical, manipulative combination of fear and greed conversations. And yes, this week Microsoft has just released an easy-to-use version integrated with Office this week as the latest announcement regarding very easy-to-use conversation AI. I am not writing about which companies have accomplished what, whose market caps will be impacted, and who will lose jobs. These are all important topics, but not for me at this time. I am writing about most Creative Outliers’ need for an assistant who does not get in their way, a very smart assistant who is, at this moment, essentially a free sounding board. And a very special type of sounding board.

We all have many questions and sometimes have no idea who to ask. Try asking a chatbot. Don’t just take my word for it. Ask around. Many extremely intelligent people are learning a ton from chatbots right now. This does not mean they are a panacea, as they certainly are not. They can lie apparently accidentally or deliberately. When dealing with power tools, experts, and consultants, you must use your judgment and discrimination as with doctors, lawyers and chatbots. You need practice as there is and probably will be a learning curve indefinitely as these are learning moving targets. You also can not avoid any of these forever. I have a very simple message, learn to leverage yourself with artificial intelligence.

Of course, you can ignore them for the short term, but this is like ignoring the idiot lights to check your engine or the blasting siren when the police tell you to pull over. You can also live in a big city and not know how to drive, but I can assure you that much of the world will remain extremely inconvenient or, at minimum, hidden. You do not need to become an expert or take a course. Just play around and experiment with a chatbot. think about how you will answer the question during your next job interview when asked if you use AI. It will be better if yo ask yourself before someone else does.