Crumple Digital Paper

Day 335 Week 48 Q4 Saturday, December 2, 2023

Do you know how, when you were writing before electronic devices on paper? Sometimes, you have to crumple up the piece of paper, throw it away, and start again. In fact, we did this with typewriters as well often but not for a long time, and I guess we have all had personal computers for at least 30 years and for some of us for 40, but sometimes we still have the same problem which is my need to crumble, a digital paper in order to get a fresh start.

The problem is we have multiple cloud accounts, backups, and other digital tethers to our previous utterances and identities. Sometimes, you just need to do email, a new login, a new cloud account, and a new computer, with which to create your new identity and to make a break from the past.

Do you sometimes need to do an identity reset to get rid of all of those spam emails clogging up your daily life?  We can become just as digitally loaded as super-sizing tends to make us physically. Everyone tends to assume that more is better, but it’s just a lot harder to move around more than it would be if we only had to move around less.

If a person is significantly overweight and loses that weight, it is like putting down a backpack they have been carrying for years. The same can be true digitally as well. We can have terabytes of cloud accounts with more information than we know what to do with, and it can be simpler to do a reset.

I know we can be very attached to all of those backups and cloud accounts and all the passwords that we did, but remember, before our generation, no one had this pile of data to carry around and be limited and constrained by. If it is not enabling, should it be jettisoned like a booster rocket to get us into orbit?

I suppose it is possible to have the old and the new at the same time by owning more than one computer, and instead of using one to back up the other one, use the new one as soon as escape pod from the prior pile of digitally accumulated detritus.

This is when it is time to crumple the digital paper. It’s sort of things around like plastic on our seashore that just accumulates and takes a lot of effort to sort through and toss. I wonder if we can let go of that mountain of prior thoughts if we could fly higher and faster and better starting from where we are right now?

I guess you never know until you try. Do the experiment. See how much faster you can move without carrying a pile of past messages and data on your back.  Sometimes you just need a new job or a new office or a new car or a new house. Why not a new digital identity?

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.

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.

Leveraged Clarity

Day 315 Week 44 Q4 Sunday, November 12, 2023

If you do not have clarity, it is hard to get leverage. When we create new directions, projects, works, and enterprises, if you are lucky, thoughtful, and considerate, there may be people who show up to help you. This is an excellent sign because if no one is interested, It is likely that either you or the project have defects significant enough to need improvement. Most dreams start with issues, so this is not a problem unless you ignore the signs that something is amiss.

Assuming you are on the other side of this chasm, which could have been tiny or huge. Congratulations, you have some potential stakeholders. This is very important because if you have no one other than you who is interested, it could be because you are significantly ahead of your time, or more likely, you have not yet been able to communicate who besides yourself will benefit. Now, you have to determine if it is a communication issue or if there truly is no one else who will benefit.

Let us assume you intend to benefit others and have adequately communicated this. The next step is you would like to help other people to help you by being clear instead of ambiguous. Now, you may not know what to do, and then it is reasonable to ask for help. In fact, even if you do know what to do, it is still worth asking for help because people who show up to help, in general, do have some idea why.

Somewhere along the line, you will need to express with some clarity the desired next steps. No doubt there are always dependencies. These result in some order to address things as you can not do everything at the same time, and some things can not be done without having completed prior steps. 

For example, it is not a great idea to start selling something if you do not know what it costs you to get it or make it. Or to invite if you do not know what you are inviting people to. This is where chess is like life; being able to see a move or two ahead gives you a tremendous advantage. Try to put yourself in other’s places and anticipate what they might need or feel, and if you can not, please ask them.

As in chess, it is not possible to see too many moves ahead. So, you do have to be flexible, but flexibility is not precisely the same as confusion, even if they might look similar at times.  The probability of success is directly proportional to clarity, which is usually improved by experience when possible.

Those with the most clarity born of experience are likely to be the most leveraged and have the most excellent chance of success.  This is leveraged clarity.

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.

Record & Review R&R

Day 313 Week 44 Q4 Friday, November 10, 2023

R&R is a common phrase you hear everywhere, from offices to locker rooms. The traditional definition of R&R originally came from the military slang for rest and recovery, rest and relaxation, rest and recreation, or rest and rehabilitation. It is an abbreviation used for the free time of a soldier or international UN staff serving in unaccompanied (no family) duty stations.

I want to propose a different meaning for creative outliers – record and review. For musicians or anyone who speaks, the benefits should be obvious, but everyone who creates can benefit from writing down what happened and what they learned from it. When you are in the middle of a creative process, hopefully, perhaps even in a state of flow, where many details can escape your conscious mind. Some of these hover between the unconscious and the conscious, and the act of attempting to capture them is usually illuminating.

I have often been surprised by the difference between my perceptions of performance while it is occurring and when reviewed later.  It seems that during a performance, both flaws and wonderful moments can be either magnified or diminished. Additionally, putting the recording away for weeks, months, or years can also change your perception of what you previously did. We are not always very reliable observers and may be incredibly unreliable when observing ourselves due to what else is going on in our lives at that time.

There is a great deal that can be learned by reviewing what you recorded if you did manage to record what occurred. Every time you do not record or capture in some way what actually transpired, you are passing up a tremendous opportunity for growth. Of course, it can be immensely difficult to try to capture either during or right after you have done something because your mind is usually in a very different place. 

We and our creations all have flaws, and the best way to address them begins with recording and reviewing. I once performed with a band on a day that we all thought sounded terrific. The next day, when we listened to the recording, we discovered, to our great embarrassment, that we had evidently forgotten to tune up our instruments. We were horrified that our judgment and perception could be so dramatically altered.  

I am sure you must occasionally have replayed a conversation after the fact to attempt to better understand why things did not necessarily go the way you expected.  Or why they did go the way you expected. The point is review is incredibly important and powerful and if you did not capture anything, it is tough to do.

Try to think about R&R.

Completion Compression

Day 312 Week 44 Q4 Thursday, November 9, 2023

Even though I love improvising and think life is one extensive improvisation, and I do hate to admit it, there are times when Completion is more critical than being extemporaneous. This is coming from a person whose license plate is Jazz OS because I regard Jazz as my internal operating system, with most of my activities being variations on a not-very-large number of themes.

But back to completion compression, and what do I mean by this? At certain times, a large number of different projects and assignments you are working on all come due at the same time. For instance, if you took a job on the other side of the planet, there would be a large number of interdependent and independent tasks that rise to the top of the pile at the same time for a date specific not too far out from where you currently are.  Moving ten thousand miles tends to do that. Or having someone very close to you dying or graduating from a program you were in for several years, or any number of things can happen that compress everything into a completion trajectory.

This can be a good thing. We used to have tradeshows to ship products in time for. For events, we had to get to airports in time to fly.  Or people may have even given us ultimatums. It does not matter how, why, or where the completion convergence happens. It will happen. It does happen and is neither good nor bad. It just is. Life happens and drives completion through many means. You may as well be ready for it when it happens.

 The good news is it can significantly reduce entropy, although, sorry to say, only temporarily. Entropy is very stubborn and keeps coming back, so you need all of the help you can get to hold it at bay. This is when completion compression can be a godsend. Instead of being upset about what you can not stop, take advantage of it. Whatever it is that causes completion compression, it does demand rapid prioritization and rapid execution. 

This gets you a nonlinear jump ahead in your life that would not happen without the extra pressure. If you are prepared for this, you can really jump on it without the fear and the pressure. You can say I saw this coming from far away and are ready for it.

Just know that completion compression will happen, and be ready for it. It could be your lucky day.