Resource Management 

Day 314 Week 44 Q4 Saturday, November 11, 2023

The creation of anything requires resources, some material, some intellectual, and some energetic. The act of creating does require expending energy and often makes use of other materials and tools. It may require hundreds of pounds of gravel more. It just may require a pencil or a laptop.  Whatever is required is still a resource to accomplish what you were trying to do. As such, it does need to be managed so that you have adequate resources to do what you intend to accomplish.

Part of resource management is also recordkeeping because you need to understand your costs in order to either have a budget or make a profit. And then, there is the storage of ideas that are not yet being activated or acted upon. Where and how do you store them? For they are ephemeral, and without storing them in a way that you can access them, they may be lost forever. This combination of ideas, insights, materials, records, and, yes, even your energy are all subject to the law of entropy, or the tendency toward randomness. 

It takes us no effort to create disorder, but it just takes effort to re-create order from the disorder that we have effortlessly created. One way to deal with this is to clean up as you were making a mess. But there’s a problem with that. It is th e same problem that occurs if, while you are cooking a meal, you’re also cleaning up the dishes and the pots. The problem is that meals produced in this matter don’t necessarily taste as good as the ones where you’re creating a bigger mess that needs to be dealt with after the meal.

You may end up with Order at the end of your project, but you may not end up with something creative or excellent.  This balancing of expenditure of energy and chaos is the dance that we have learned over a long period of time because we do not have an infinite amount of energy, even though we may head that way, and we most certainly do not have an infinite amount of discipline. 

Do you have as much discipline at the end of the day as you did at the beginning? I don’t. This is why it is difficult to clean up the mess after you have created it while you were creating it. But you do have to allocate enough time to be able to put things back into a usable condition during the creative act. Otherwise, the next time you want to create, you may have to spend half an hour just getting ready when you were cleaning up yesterday’s mess.

I do not know about you, but for me, this is a highly sub-optimal condition because, by the time I have completed cleaning up the mess, I will no longer be in the mood to create. This is why, for me, resource management is critical.

Chaperoning and Championing

Day 310 Week 44 Q4 Tuesday, November 7, 2023

When we have new ideas or create new inventions, processes, music, art, or literature, we have to champion whatever it is, we created to get it out in the world until the world begins to ask us for our input, which usually doesn’t last very long, unless you become very famous and even that doesn’t have a long have Life usually.

Entrepreneurs have become so used to having to champion their ideas that we get locked into transmit mode and sometimes stop listening. This is not a good way to convince anybody of anything but when I am speaking of here is a different although related issue. Many people know they have to champion as well as to listen, but there is another function that we get to play because after all, these outputs are in someway our children, and they require parenting in the form of being a chaperone once in a while.

For example, you have written some thing which is getting into print and can assume that what we see on our screen will also be what we see printed on physical media like paper. This is never the case. Things look different on the surface, which is reflecting, light as compared to a screen, which is emitting light. Colors change, contrast, changes, darkness, and hue change. And if you really want to have some fun, try to get gradients to come out on paper the way they do on the screen.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

This is why you have to do to press checks. Will you look at a printed out proof of something before you begin to replicate it and make many copies. It sounds so simple to send a file to a printer and expect what comes out to look like that file. But all experienced graphic designers and artists know this is not the case.

Authors, on the other hand, may be surprised if they are more in tune to the actual words, then the colors and shading and spacing of what they have written, all of which can be subject to change in ways that you did not expect. In general, the result is worse than you expected not better.

This is why, before mess producing anything printed at all, you must get a press proof, which is actually printed on the materials that you would like to be printing upon. The same holds true for prototyping and pilot runs before attempting to mess produce anything.

I called this to your attention, because even if you have convinced everybody that they want you’re out, but your job is not done you still have to chaperone it to defend the integrity of your creation, or it will be altered in ways that may not please you. Don’t leave this to chance. Try it out.

Do you have to be both a champion and a chaperone, especially in this difficult age.

A New Blade

Day 300 Week 43 Q4 Saturday, October 28, 2023

Chefs, carpenters, surgeons, and the rest of us who simply shave all benefit from a new blade. There is less resistance when cutting and, therefore, more control when you have a sharp instrument. In fact, sometimes, a person can act as a blade in a contentious situation. There are times when blunt instruments and blunt people can be better. There are times when a new blade can be too sharp, and an old blade can be too blunt. The range also depends upon the skill of the user of the blade, but most of the time, most of us appreciate having a new blade.

It is interesting to note that, at present, surgeons always use new scalpels. I am sure this was not always the case. Additionally, scalpels made of obsidian, a volcanic glass, take a significantly finer edge than stainless steel but cost 100 times more, even though they are also both more brittle and more challenging to sterilize. 

The creative process frequently requires the cutting and reshaping of whatever you are working with, whether that be wood or a team of people. I do not trust myself to shave safely with a straight-edge razor but instead use disposable blades, as do surgeons, although they, unlike me, have a new blade for every surgery. 

New extremely high IQ, but inexperienced managers can be a little like a straight-edge blade, a bit too sharp for repetitive circumstances. They may be brought in to change things up but may be too inexperienced to understand the meaning of social cues. People can be accidentally hurt, and the blade person can even hurt themselves.

Sharpness is relative. One must ask, compared to what? Perhaps if a new blade is needed, it should be blunter than the old one, and perhaps it should be sharper. Most of the time, a new blade is terrific, and some of the time it is dangerous. 

Chefs take care of and sharpen their old blades, and surgeons toss them out. Do you need a new blade in your process? Or do you need to sharpen your old blades? Do you know how and when? Do you immediately try to use a brand new tool in a project with a rapidly approaching deadline? Do you have to because the old one cannot do the job?

When you are a woodworker, an old blade can be downright dangerous. Sometimes older means more experienced, and other times, it just means worn out. Much of the time, the impulse to get a new blade is right on, but the new blade cannot be found, afforded, or installed.

Don’t you wish everything was as simple as shaving or slicing tomatoes?

Getting on Down

Day 295 Week 43 Q4 Monday, October 23, 2023

Monday morning and another management crisis. When is it not so? Not even if you are retired. If you have volition and are still firing on all cylinders, there is always a problem or three to be solved. Is it a crisis? Perhaps not to you. To you, it is simply another opportunity to solve a problem or take advantage of something you noticed or even created in the past.  It depends on your disposition, whether you think it is a Monday morning crisis or opportunity.

For me, it is just getting down the road. I seem to be unable to resist tinkering even if things seem okay because I imagine taking them up a notch to the next level. Does this sometimes break things that were perfectly good enough? Of course, it does, and that is why backups were created. We all tend to, at times, break things, and even if we are not the responsible party, we are still responsible for making sure we have backups to recover when needed.

Often, the determination of crisis or adventure is: do you have a backup? This is why nondestructive editing was invented. Unfortunately, this does not work with people or relationships, which is why I tinker with files more than with people.

Part of getting on down is the determination of what you can mess with. I try not to mess with unrecoverable things like relationships the first thing in the morning when some people are preverbal. They may not be ready to have a conversation, but they can still be hurt, so break a file or something else you have a backup of.

This is the problem with being a manager or executive: much of your creativity is applied to things that do not have backups.  And this means you can not be as cavalier as you were when creating content or hardware. This translates into reduced degrees of freedom, which is the bane of creative outliers’ existence. 

Maximum freedom and flexibility feel a lot better on a Monday morning than having your entire day predefined. At least, it does for me because I am even worse than a creative outlier. I am an involuntary innovator, and I can tell you from experience not all situations need innovation all of the time.  

So when getting on down for me, there have to be adequate degrees of freedom in the day, especially on a Monday morning when the world looks fresh until interruptions intrude. This is why I spend time up and doing things, sometimes breaking things, before most of the world is up and about. Creation is part of my morning calibration process to be getting on down, which is why I have been listening to a piece I improvised this morning before starting to write this.

On Having Two Drummers

Day 294 Week 43 Q4 Sunday, October 22, 2023

Some of the most contagious and, hence, most danceable beats were supplied by rock bands fifty years ago, like The Dead, The Allman Brothers, and Santana. Sometimes there were actually two drummers, and sometimes there was a drummer and a percussionist, which to a classical musician might sound confusing because, in that world, everyone is a percussionist, not a drummer except, of course, for the people who play tympani, but that is another matter.

Apart from confusing cultural nomenclature, which I merely mention here and am not inventing, the issue is a double timekeeper as a powerful way to keep everyone and everything in synch. Sometimes, companies have project managers and coordinators, and sometimes, one person has all of the responsibility for timekeeping.

Two timekeepers allow for polyrhythms as well, which are not only more interesting but approximate the way life works more accurately as well. We have many cycles within cycles, and they sometimes line up more strongly than others. For example, there is your work life and your personal life. What some of you are saying is that they are the same. Well then, bear with me here, for unless you are the type that is good at marching in rhythm in parades or other, from above, dictums about how to march, I suspect that most of you march to the beat of your own internal drummer and do not necessarily agree with the common denominator rhythm society attempts to impose upon you.

Just as there are often two guitarists in a band with one playing rhythm and the other playing lead and two violins in a string quartet nominally for the same reason as there are often a drummer and percussionists playing in the same ensemble, the reason is it is easier to share the responsibility and permits more texture and nuance not so much because each party is a specialist although that may be the case, but because it is more fun to skip through life than to march through it.  As an aside, when I joined a local volunteer fire department and parade season was coming up, other local fire companies had dress uniforms; for just such occasions, I was told we were (and still are) a fire fighting company, not a marching company and instead of wearing shiny shoes we wore hoodies.

So, yes, understand that creative people do not march in formation. But they do have plenty of rhythms or often even rhythms, which is why I recommend the two-drummer approach to life. Unless you want to end up alone, lacking in longevity and meaning, find out what the more normal rhythms of life, as well as your internal ones, are, and find that polyrhythmic beat you can dance to because I am sure you would rather dance than march. If you want to bob and weave and also still get things done, then you need two drummers.

Management is not Leadership

Day 277 Week 40 Q4 Thursday, October 5, 2023

Okay, creative outliers, let us assume you have managed to create MeaningPlace to the extent that you have gotten traction and your ideas are manifesting nicely. Sooner or later, you will have things and people to manage to get everything you want done. This is called leverage, and yes you have to stop creating and making stuff and begin to deal with people. This is both rewarding and messy. It is messier to deal with people’s feelings than a blank sheet of paper or an empty track on a Digital Audio Workstation.  

Many an excellent engineer has been promoted to manager and failed. Managing code, circuitry or design is not the same as managing people. People have needs. You may argue that your book, opera or new project also has needs. This is true, but they do not get upset when their needs are not nearly as much as people do. People have the right to ask What’s in it for me? They may not ask it out loud or even consciously. It may be asked by others in their lives wondering why their sweetie, child, or uncle is investing so much energy in this direction. 

Leadership is far more inspiring than management. Do the troops follow a manager into battle? Oh, you think you are just going into a recording session, not a battle? Not true. You are going into battle against entropy, distractions, negative feedback, doubt and disorder. Sometimes, people do things just because they are told or told and paid, but often, the highest quality people need something more than that.  

Founders need to feed people psychically with vision, justification and acknowledgment. People need to be seen. And sending out an email blast may be more efficient than personal communication, but which one do you think is more compelling to you personally?

Leaders help someone get somewhere they can not get to by themselves. And it has to be somewhere they want to go. If you find yourself managing, it is well worth answering the question, how can I make this more worthwhile for those you manage? You have a responsibility to respect the people helping you, not just tell them what to do.  Excellent people often do not want to be told what to do unless you are paying them very well, and even then, the truly excellent people usually need more motivation than money. They need to be seen, respected and acknowledged. 

If you are the kind of person who steals other people’s ideas or treats them poorly in other ways, you will be left with a group of bottom feeders, not a powerful, self-organizing, talented team. Do not make everything all about you. Make the situation be about them. Lead people to places they want to get to. They may have wanted to get there before they ever met you. Or they may hear something you said and tell themselves, I want to go there. Either way, get them somewhere further than where they already are.

Don’t just manage. Lead!