Time Money Meaning

Day 344 Week 50 Q4 Monday, December 11, 2023

At some point in time, most of us have to deal with time because it is the only resource that is not renewable. We also have to deal with money because we all have bills to pay and things to do that require it. But if we only focus on time and money, and leave out, meaning we are not going to have a very good life. It is quite possible to have a ton of money and be retired, which theoretically means that you have a lot of time and not have meaning.

On the other hand, it is also quite possible to have a ton of meaning and be strapped for both time and money. There is a giant balancing act that is called for. But far better than a giant bouncing act would be a giant integration job. You see, most of the time, everything you need is around you, and it needs to be integrated. Even in the tech world, where new inventions abound, most of the time, they are simply integrating things that already exist, as opposed to having to create new things that do not exist.

Even if you create some new things that do not exist, you’re going to have to find out how to integrate them with the things that do exist, so you never truly have a clean slate. You never get to reinvent everything, only some things. And that is more than enough. Because a single new component can permit an entirely new integrated system. And in a person’s life, meaning is that component.

Once you have determined what creates meaning in your life and what you’re looking for, the time and money can be rearranged around that. But if you have no idea what creates meaning for you or even that you have the responsibility to create meaning, it doesn’t matter how much time and money you have; you’re still not going to have a meaningful life.

Therefore, the quest is for meaning because otherwise, why bother to get up tomorrow morning? For some, this does not have to be a conscious pursuit. They may have been satisfied by being a normal member of society with a family and children and a house, and a dog and a mortgage and all the things to do that person does to fit into the world. For others, the usual stuff didn’t quite give them what they needed, and they somehow had to come to meaning in a different manner. Some of us have concluded that the only way to have meaning is to create it ourselves.

For myself, I am not sure that Life has any intrinsic meaning whatsoever, but I am quite sure that I am capable of creating infinite amounts of meaning for myself because I have, and I do every day. Different strokes for different folks. For me, the meaning is more important than the time and money, and therefore, it is the core building plot upon which to create a foundation that can support a life.

Business Model Need

Day 326 Week 47 Q4 Thursday, November 23, 2023

If creative outliers want to become sustainable innovators capable of harvesting infinity, they need to have a viable business model. I know it may hurt you to think of your artistic output or invention as a product to be deployed in the world, but the fact remains that if you cannot deploy anything in the world, you cannot get paid as a creative person.

I hate to give you this terrible news, but no matter how gifted, brilliant, talented, and creative you are, you have to get traction. This means you have to actually manifest something tangible, and you have to get compensated for it. If you have an agent or a publisher or a boss or somebody else representing you, they can be the ones who own the business model and do all the extra work to generate revenue, and perhaps this will shield you from that part of the process.

But if you want to have the maximum degrees of freedom in your life, the more control you have over your intellectual property, the more significant profit you will have. Now if you make it big time as a world-famous person, then the model changes, and you don’t have to be responsible for all of those things. But let’s face it: even if you are a creative outlier and manage to invent something, get one of the 650,000 patents issued every year, or publish one of the million books that come out every year, you do have to face the statistics that the best majority of these are not profitable. Only 2 to 3% of all patents filed generate revenue. Filing for and prosecuting a patent can be an expensive proposition, and knowing that you only have a slight chance of financial success may turn you away from that expensive, time-consuming process. Similarly, an even smaller percentage of books that are published are profitable.

The opportunity cost for your time and effort, as well as the financial investment required to produce new works, inventions, prototypes, processes, and anything that is a breakthrough, is significant. You may also love doing this, and even if it doesn’t have any chance of paying off financially, it may be worth it psychologically to you if you have the resources and energy to make it happen.

But if you want permission to continue to do this activity you love and do not have a deep-pocketed patron or investor with one,  then you must have a business model. This may sound disturbing to you. It certainly was to me for many years, but eventually, I realized if I wanted to get anything done in the world, I was going to have to do two things that were different than my natural inclinations. Become an extrovert with a business plan.

I had to learn how to be an extrovert, even though I was born naturally as an introvert. For much of my life, I would much rather stay home and play the piano and read a book than go to a party or pitch an idea. 

I found out pretty early on that if I wanted anybody to listen to any of my ideas, I was going to have to go out and present them. So, I learned how to be an extrovert out of self-defense.  Similarly, I also had to learn that of what I was doing was not profitable. Eventually, I was going to have to stop doing it. 

The combination of these two things made it clear that if I wanted to continue to be creative,  I had to learn how to communicate with others and sell my ideas. This meant I had to learn how to make my ideas emotionally relevant to others by embedding them within some kind of a story where the narrative at least hinted at some benefit to the people I was attempting to get on board. If there is no conceivable, sustainable model, it becomes challenging to get other stakeholders to invest in you financially or emotionally. Most of the time, sustainability requires some sort of fiscal component, and that, in general, is not a good enough reason to motivate me or most creative outliers to do something. We tend to need to do something because we want to, and then if it also makes sense in terms of sustainability, that’s a bonus.

This is why there is a need for creative outliers to have a business model to continue to sustain their creativity. This creativity is also a significant factor in creating meaning in their lives.

Defining MeaningPlace

Day 276 Week 40 Q4 Wednesday, October 4, 2023

What do we mean by MeaningPlace? A place where a person can go and experience meaning, which generally has something to do with identity. If you do not know who you are, can you experience meaning? We all have identities. Many, if not most, of us may even have more than one. For example, we can be a homeowner, a parent and a teacher. When we teach, we support our notion of ourselves as a teacher, and when we are in the hardware store buying supplies for repairing that torn screen on your porch or taking your kid to get a haircut or a doctor, we know we are a homeowner and a parent. 

But this is more about MeaningPlace as it applies to creative outliers, for creativity is not necessarily supported by those around us, and we may benefit from having someplace where we can go and immediately experience meaning, not as a function of the normal societal roles used in the example above. One way to preserve your status as a creator is by having a place where you can easily create.

If you play an instrument, it is more likely to be played if it is accessible. If your instrument lives in its case instead of next to where you sit, it will be played less, and you may feel like less of a musician. But if you can lay your hands on it and begin playing very quickly, it supports the notion that you are a musician.

  MeaningPlace and identity are intertwined, and it is difficult to imagine having meaning without having clarity about identity. And yes, identities can conflict, although one way to mediate this is by having different MeaningPlaces to support different identities. People used to have offices to go to work. And they could leave their work at the office when they left.  Being able to work anywhere at any time can be interpreted as always having meaning because you are always working. This is not sustainable. Everyone finds this out. We need delimiters, or our life does not belong to us but to someone else.

If you want to own your life and have your chosen identity, set up a MeaningPlace that supports the identity. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can derive behaviors that are consistent with this identity and be on a path to developing routines that support you. If your identity includes the phrase that I am a piano player, but you do not have access to a piano, you are likely fooling yourself.

Creative people tend to have creative spaces, which also tend to be messy and therefore, not the best place for anything else. You might want to keep your caustic project chemicals separated from your kitchen so you do not accidentally poison anyone. This is also a metaphor for other relativistic contaminants.

Manifesting MeaningPlace

Day 275 Week 40 Q4 Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Where does MeaningPlace come from? From within or from outside? How long does it take? Do you need it? What do you do about it? Can you preserve it? Time to zoom out.

Who cares where or how? The real question is do you have meaning or not? And is there a place that you are more likely to get it than not? The people who have meaning in their life have much better lives than those who do not. It could come from relationships or a place that has special meaning for you. It can come about by accident or design. It can be harmless, beneficial, or dangerous. It can be free or costly. MeaningPlace is a highly subjective and individual concept. What is meaningful to me could horrify you? Have you ever cooked something you was great that others hated.  I told a guitarist friend I liked playing electric guitars unplugged early I the morning to not wake anyone up and was looked at like, how could anyone do that?

What is important is the ability to routinely experience meaning by having some circumstances which support this. It is also a good idea that your MeaningPlace is not harming others but perhaps benefitting them. I have no idea what others need to do to generate meaning in their lives and do not have to either but am very comforted by the fact that I have multiple MeaningPlaces in my life. I have renamed my living room Studio M because it has a Mason Hamlin Piano in it and my office Studio G because there are guitars in there. These are two MeaningPlaces for me. People say what you have two music studios in your house? These places give me meaning and so what if I no longer have an office or a livingroom.

It is not the naming of place that makes it a MeaningPlace it is how you feel when you are there and often that is a function of what you do there. Some people go to the same bar or coffee house often to meet up with friends. I call this a meeting place. And others like to shop in the same store. I call this a marketplace but I think we all deserve to also have MeaningPlaces  which are places we can go that support our identity and our activities that provide us with meaning. 

My best MeaningPlace is inside my head.  Convenient because I am never without it. There are creative acts which provide meaning for me especially in two specific chairs I sit in, located in places that bring about better conditions to write or compose all the way into a flow state. One in Studio G I have had for 33 years and the other in Studio M for 10 and both are significant MeaningPlaces for me because they are where my mental psycho-spiritual creative processes converge most easily. 

Preserving MeaningPlace

Day 274 Week 40 Q4 Monday, October 2, 2023

Meaning matters more than money. At least it does to me. For if I have money and not meaning life is not worth much. If I have meaning and not money then life is also compromised. Therefore a balance is required. Which is more difficult having meaning and then searching for money or having money and then searching for meaning? It depends on who you are? And what of a town or a county or a nation? Do they have the same equation to balance? Or is meaning a luxury like self-actualization? It is hard enough to be in another person’s mind to tell how they feel, but another land? Which voice would you listen to?

I can only comment on my personal internal state and environs but to my mind meaning is incredibly important. So much so that I am not sure how much life wold be worth living without it, at least for me as I can not speak for others. I have noticed that for creative outliers actively engaging in manifesting responses to the universe impinging upon them, tasty they seem to get tremendous meaning from creating. Could they meaning from something else? Of course they can because what most people create is offspring and that seems to give the most meaning of all to many people. 

This would imply that for most people their MeaningPlace is their home where their offspring live. What happens when they grow up and move away? Does the meaning move away with them? Perhaps but the is not what this discussion is about. It is about preserving MeaningPlace for Creative Outliers and for small town Main Street USA. And the balancing and prioritization of meaning and money. Some people leave behind memes, others leave behind genes and other both. But whatever camp you are in, it is my contention that life without meaning is not very worth living and therefore have at least one MeaningPlace is imperative. If there is a single place a person can go where their life has meaning, a single MeaningPlace then one can deal with incredible amounts of hardship and difficulty but if there is not even a single place life may simple seem too hard.  The increasing suicide rate seem to indicate a significant amount of trauma in the lives of many people.

Perhaps a perscription to address this could be to invest energy in creating MeaningPlace instead of consuming pharmaceuticals. Creative outliers are well positioned to create MeaningPlace. After all they are often in the business of creating meaning. Where do they do this? In kitchens, laboratories, studios, offices, walking on the beach, or just waling down main street of where they live. All of these have worked for me. And this is why they are all worth preserving.

If you do not have meaning, create some. If you do not have any MeaningPlace manifest one. And then work to preserve this MeaningPlace as a safe place.

Monetizing MeaningPlace

Day 272 Week 39 Q3 Saturday, September 30, 2023

Is there something you enjoy doing enough to get into flow? Does this also give your life meaning? Then, it is time to invent a way to get paid for this. If this activity has value for you, then there is a reasonable chance some form of it also has value to others. You may be different but not so different from everyone else that what turns you on does not matter to anyone else. You may have to improve the level you do it at to increase its value beyond the compensation threshold.

For example, I love to improvise, but it took a long time to get good enough at it to get paid for it. The same is true for everything else, from problem-solving to swimming. If you are a natural problem solver, you might become an engineer. If you love swimming in the water, you could become a lifeguard and swimming instructor. 

The point is that the things we value in general are also valuable to others. Perhaps not the same amount of value? Or much more value? Many people love their jobs so much that their days pass by very easily and quickly. They have monetized their MeaningPlace.

Some may have begun doing it for the money and then found ways to love it. Others knew what they wanted to do and found ways to get paid for it. I loved music and math and became an electroacoustical engineer designing sound systems.

We may be very different from those around us, but when I got to Bose Corporation, I found another sixty engineers who also loved music and math. If you love words and are a poet, there are many others like you. You may have to go somewhere else to find them, but in today’s geography-transcending world, you can click your way to finding them instead of driving or flying.

If you can monetize your MeaningPlace, you can earn a living being who you want to be. Then, every day, you get better at being you, and simultaneously, you also become worth more to others.

Not everyone can do this, but if you are a creative outlier, you have a greater chance because you can create what is not yet there. New jobs, new research fields, new products, new business models. These all come from people who know what they want to do and likely find a way, to some degree, to monetize it.

You may enjoy creating relationships; you should consider going into sales. As a creative person, you might feel I want to make things, not sell them. Has it ever occurred to you that creating relationships is a creative process? And the people who are good at it also may be good at management, which is, after all, another kind of compensated relationship.  

If you can find what gives you meaning and a context for this, a MeaningPlace, and then see if you can monetize this, for if you do, you will never have to work again, or it may be work but not feel like work. 

Public MeaningPlace

Day 271 Week 39 Q3 Friday, September 29, 2023

If you are a book person, you may have frequented libraries and bookstores even more in the past before there was Amazon. Every time you went to a book place and spent time occasionally rubbing shoulders with other book people, you were casting a vote for your identity as a book person. If you learned to use chopsticks when you were young but were not from a part of the world or culture that used them, you may derive pleasure every time you use them. This tiny skill can give your life meaning, especially if you have traveled in the Far East and had a chance to use chopsticks there. Suppose you have extensive experience traveling in far-off places where you do not speak the language, where transportation was often dicey by affluent American standards, and where you learned to pack lightly and be ready to move quickly. In that case, you may feel some identity as a traveler. All these activities give your life meaning to a degree, and every time you engage in them, you cast a vote for your identity. These public shared activities all create meaning in people’s lives and help them to have an identity.

Similarly, small town USA used to have a Main Street where you could conduct your business and feel a part of the town. Where you be be seen and acknowledged and greeted. And where you could also see, acknowledge and greet others who shared your identity as a person of this place. The combination of big box stores, online purchasing and the global pandemic has largely killed Main Street USA in small towns that are also tourist destinations, where the stores that sold things you needed, like books, socks, underwear and food, have been replaced by trinkets, artworks and other non-necessities. I have lived in three cute, down-to-earth, real, working towns. that have lost their souls over the last twenty years. The farmers, fishermen, musicians and artists have all been priced out of the market.  And where excellent restaurants can not find wait staff and are forced into becoming take-out only because it costs too much to live in the area. These were all public MeaningPlaces that support identity creation and maintenance.

 When these places become tourist traps that can not support local culture but have to import big names from the big cities, they lose the ability to create meaning, maintain community and support identity. They become about consumption, accumulation and too many nonprofits begging for money from people who live in town part-time and make their money elsewhere. In short, they become filled with old people who are rich compared to the locals, and they are dying, as is meaning in our culture.

This is where creative outliers come in – we create meaning in our personal lives and also create Public MeaningPlaces.That is where they primarily come from. MeaningPlaces are also places of Trust. Both are fragile in that when either trust or meaning is lost, they are both very difficult to regain.

Repeated MeaningPlace

Day 82 Week 12 Q1  Thursday, March 23, 2023

Every time we return to a MeaningPlace, we are voting for it. The behaviors and actions we invest energy in can take on a life of their own when they become habituated automatic behaviors. For example, you stop at the same cafe every day, either on the way somewhere or perhaps to spend some time and hang out. Or you periodically go to the same bookstore or restaurant where you feel very comfortable and pretty certain you will enjoy this activity. Sometimes these can become MeaningPlaces. Hopefully, your job or profession is also a MeaningPlace, but this is not guaranteed. In fact, none of these are guaranteed. Cafes close, companies go out of business, people get laid off, and each of these can be a loss because these are all places where you are known, and part of Meaning is to be seen, known and acknowledged. In fact, the greatest gift a person can give another is to see them. This is not always easy.

Some MeaningPlaces are more permanent such as being out in the ocean in a kayak or hiking in the woods. But the most permeant of all MeaningPlaces are the ones you construct in your mind by dint of your significant investment in them. For example, a long-term relationship like a marriage hopefully becomes a place where you are seen by each other and positively acknowledged by each other. The many-year-long relationship has much more meaning than the always-exciting startup relationship. If you are lucky, they can even be in the same relationship at different stages of evolution, where both parties are co-creating a MeaningPlace.

Back to the consistent investment of energy into an activity or a relationship. What about your relationship with yourself? Do you find meaning apart from the external cafes and relationships? I sure hope so, for this is the most persistent MeaningPlace because it is difficult to take away from you. Your athletic prowess can be your MeaningPlace, but as a retiree, you will not do the same things you did in high school. You can try, but the outcome is less meaningful. As a high school gymnast, I find that approaching my seventieth year does not provide, shall we say, the same flexibility. 

The relationship with yourself can be the greatest MeaningPlace of all, and this does not mean that you are self-absorbed. It means you are more or less self-contained and self-sufficient. And sometimes, the little things you find yourself doing consistently over time can provide tremendous meaning. For example, I play some guitar every morning for a few minutes, okay, I admit it, sometimes for more than a few minutes.  And no, I do not consider this to be the activity I am most proficient at. But a few minutes of noodling around, not trying to do anything in particular but simply exploring the sound and vibrations, is particularly satisfying and, yes, for me, a MeaningPlace. After having done this for a few years, usually for a few minutes, I find this simple activity, made simpler by having more than one guitar in one place in my life, provides an incredible amount of meaning. For me, it is a MeaningPlace.    

Causing Cruising

Day 80 Week 12 Q1  Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Cruising along, seemingly without effort, whether in the sea or on a project, can be a flow state. Time passes, progress is made, no worries. Everyone loves this state. It can come about seemingly by accident. It can occur singly or shared. And most of us agree this is a great state to be in. It is hard for me to imagine anything great coming from any other state because excellence is a diminishing returns proposition. Until one gets into this cruising-along state, the increasing effort to refine and perfect any outcomes can be very hard to muster.  

Alternatively, this flow or cruise state can definitely be deliberately achieved. It can be a happy accident, but more often, it results from directed effort and is not accidental. In other words, we can take responsibility for getting into the flow state and enjoy the feeling of causing along. This does not have to be a theoretical exercise where you go to workshops, spend time with gurus, or read your way there. Nor do you have to mediate your way there. As the saying goes, there are many paths to the top of the mountain. For creative outliers causing along in a state of flow is the top of the mountain, for it is the only way to apply a massive amount of time and effort to achieve nonlinearly wonderful results. 

You can magically make a great deal of effort go away by reducing it to the effort to get started. Once you determine how to get into Flow and habituate the required behavior, then simply going through your morning routine (assuming you have one) automatically gets you into Flow. In other words, you can be Causing Cruising but not forcing it. The trick is determining what activities naturally get you into a Flow state by paying attention to how you got there in the past.  

Once I noticed that playing music got me to the same place as all of the other physical, mental and psychospiritual paths, but a lot faster, I integrated the playing of music into a morning practice, and it got me there sometimes in seconds instead of minutes or hours. And then the experimenting began, for it seemed for me at least that the Flow State did not come about from playing the instruments I played best nor the material I knew most thoroughly. 

It seemed to require exploration, not perfection. The act of searching for sounds and vibrations was far more satisfying than performing or conventional perfecting through teacher exercises. I had to find my own path there, and I am not advocating all of you playing music to get off into a cruising state of flow.  In fact, I doubt this would work for most other musicians as most people are less comfortable exploring than perfecting, which is most musicians have a hard time improvising. As an involuntary innovator, I have difficulty not improvising but different strokes for different folks.

Find what get you to the desired state and then be religious about doing it, and not only will the effort to perfect go way down, but you may even discover what you should be doing with your life. You might even find a MeaningPlace.

Creating MeaningPlace 

Day 41 Week 6 Q1  Friday, February 10, 2023

Do you create MeaningPlace in your life? It can come about naturally without any conscious effort on your part. For example, I grew up in a book-worshiping household. No, not the Bible but books in general, for my mother was a librarian, and my parents met in the library. When I first began to visit friends’ houses, I noticed many people had a television in every room, but in my house, we had a bookcase in every room. In fact, I noticed hardly anyone had a bookcase in every room. And as I grew up, I found I was attracted to other people who also had a lot of books around. So I did not have a choice. I was going to be a book person no matter what. And still, to this day, bookstores and libraries and rooms full of books make me feel good. They contribute to my identity. Even though I did not consciously choose this, it just happened. 

But it is also possible to create MeaningPlaces consciously. Or notice places that made you feel good. For example, my wife and I both like hardware stores, and I know my parents did not. I liked building things. Tools and parts were part of my identity that came about not because of my parents. They did not resist me creating a workshop or, as I got older, a recording studio or an electronics laboratory. All of these were MeaningPlaces for me which had nothing to do with parent-guided interests.

Some people get meaning from watching Sunday football or playing Golf with their friends or any number of things not part of my meaning, and hey, there are different strokes for different folks.

Sitting next to a friend or partner while doing two entirely different things can be something that creates meaning for a person. Creating a MeaningPlace does not have to be expensive or complicated, but being able to find meaning when you want or need it is a very useful capability.  Exercising your MeaningPlaces is voting for your identity. It is you voting for you. It can be conscious or unconscious or inherited or invented, but in all cases, it is worth having a place that creates meaning for you to go to.  

It can be defined by you or others and be temporary or permanent. Still, in this crazy chaotic world, it is good to know there are places you can go either physically, intellectually or emotionally that provide meaning. This is especially important for creative outliers who do not always get the amount of meaning from the activities and values that the mainstream provides and reinforces.

If you already have plenty or at least some MeaningPlaces, that is great. If you don’t, then use some of your creative energy to consciously bring some into being.