External Influences

Day 114 Week 17 Q2 Tuesday, April 23, 2024

This posting is not about external influences on all of your life, just the part that has to do with prioritization and compartmentalization. Say you thought you had a set of priorities that you were having to deal with this week. I said that yesterday, you encountered a different circumstance that could have been acted upon opportunistically. This external influence can change your priorities, even if you are a self-driven, self-organizing, self-motivating person.

I am not talking about an external influence, such as a boss telling you what to do. I’m talking about you being your own boss and telling yourself what to do. What you tell yourself changes as a function of what is around you, which is why I am calling it an external influence as opposed to an external directive.

You may have the good fortune of not having to take orders. Or it may be the simple fact that when people give you orders, you don’t take them. However, it occurred the way you spend your time may be primarily up to you. When you get into the space, if you are fortunate enough to do so, you will still have to deal with external influences.

This is not a bad thing; this is a good thing. It means you are capable of adapting to the reality around you based on your own evaluation of what is important to you. This is a glorious place to be. But it can still rock the boat.

The difference is you are rocking your own boat. This may be voluntary or involuntary. You also may be in a relationship with others whose opinions matter to you, not because they’re your boss but because you don’t have one. You still have to figure out what to do at any given point in time. If you think you already know everything that you have to do when you get up in the morning and do not feel constrained by that, then you are not a creative outlier, or perhaps you have to subordinate your creative, divergent, curious urges to a larger goal, which is often the case.

If this persists for years and years, then you will have given up your creative outlier status and become like the rest of the world, no longer having much control over how you spend your time. This is pretty disastrous for a creative outlier.

Assuming that you still have enough degrees of freedom in your life to exercise your creativity and curiosity and still be open to the opportunities afforded you by external influences, then you are in truly terrific shape. Because you are not a slave to others or yourself, you have the freedom and flexibility to respond to the present moment, which includes both internal and external influences.

Prioritized Compartmentalization

Day 113 Week 17 Q2 Monday, April 22, 2024

When you’re a creative outlier, managing a larger number of projects is the norm. However, this can lead to chaos if not handled properly. Your curious, opportunistic nature can result in a multitude of projects. That’s why it’s crucial to be organized and prioritize effectively.

I have one friend who rented office space with several different rooms so he could have different kinds of projects going on in each of these rooms. He tried organizing by room, and I don’t know how well it worked or didn’t, but I remember thinking it was kind of an amazing approach to have a lot of different things going on.

I myself have fallen prey to trying to organize by briefcases or backpacks. I tended to accumulate books, files, drawings, notebooks, and some sort of a bag, preferably with a strap or a handle, and then I would find myself with half a dozen of these bags in my office, sometimes migrating from my home office to my head off on my office or my living room or my car and I was never quite sure where all my projects were even when they were compartmentalized.

Since the prioritization changed, the locations have changed. Needless to say, this produced some kind of compartmentalized prioritized chaos. I spent a lot of time shifting gears as opposed to actually getting traction in any particular gear on any particular project. It was great fun but not particularly productive. It was also incredibly creative because I had to find the right bags for the right projects, and many years later, I discovered I had an extremely large number of bags, backpacks, and briefcases.

And if you are creative enough, it doesn’t matter how many rooms, bags, or workspaces you have. You will fill them all up, perhaps quickly, slowly, or even immediately. So then, what do you do?

Then, it becomes time for prioritized compartmentalization.

Since you will always have more projects and space than time, it probably makes sense to prioritize not the entire list but just the top two or three projects. It is difficult to work on more than two or three projects anyway.

This makes the prioritization job relatively easy. Which two or three projects can you be working on today, this week, or this month? It does not matter what you may be working on next year or later this year in terms of prioritized compartmentalization. Because she will be changing your priority and re-organizing your space and time before then, so there’s no point in assuming that whatever system we have set up will persist. Because if you are a creative outlier, it will not persist.  

So, make life easy on yourself. Do not try to organize your life for the rest of your life, or even the rest of the year, because it will change. It is, therefore, a waste of time to prematurely converge on an unknowable future.

Pacing Joy

Day 111 Week 16 Q2 Saturday, April 20, 2024

Just because things are going great does not mean that you should go as fast as you can. In fact, perhaps the opposite. Maybe you should go as slowly as you can to preserve the good vibes and get the most out of them. When we are excited, we have a tendency to speed up. Sometimes, this is very inconvenient if you are performing while accompanying a singer, and you speed up so much that they can no longer fit the words. I have done this, although not in a very long time. In fact, it was one of the reasons that I wasn’t able to sing until I slowed down my playing.

Seriously, when you have a large number of positive actions to contemplate, and you have this tendency to try to pack all of them in, you might want to think twice about it. You might want to pace yourself. Young people don’t usually do this. Or at least most of the people that I knew and now still. But as we get older now that today, the 111th day of the year, is my 71st birthday, I keep thinking that maybe I should slow down a little. You know, perhaps it is time to abandon the boogie till you drop approach to life. This has actually served me into my eighth decade, but I don’t want to drop anymore because it takes a lot longer to recover. Perhaps that is why I’m thinking about pacing and joy.

I do know one thing, however: when you have this much good stuff going on, you’re not going to get old, so perhaps I will end up boogying until I drop? Still, there are others involved in your life, and you don’t want to make life too difficult for them either. How about the one from column A and one from column B approach? Perhaps you have never heard of this, but in New York City, many Chinese restaurants used to have a combination plate type of situation where you could choose something from column A and something else from column B. But even if you are not an old-timer who spent a lot of time in New York City Chinese restaurants, you have surely heard of the smorgasbord approach to life.

This is the concept with our very many more courses in front of you than you could possibly eat. And it’s very exciting, except that it also tends to cause overeating. Still, I love the smorgasbord approach to life, where you can have a very large number of small portions if you have enough discipline not to overeat. I love the variety, and yes, it also requires some discipline, which is not a bad thing to be in the habit of either.

So, even if you are feeling terrific, which I am right now, it is still a good idea to pace yourself. And I am calling that today Pacing Joy.

Compositions Performances Recordings 

Day 054 Week 08 Q1 Saturday, February 24, 2024

What is the definition of a song or a piece of music? Well, songs usually have words, and pieces of music generally do not. Of course, there are exceptions, but for most of the world, songs are vocal-centric, and pieces are instrumentally-centric. This is a rather large difference because vocal-centric music usually has lyrics, although very occasionally, there are wordless vocals. Additionally, instrumental music is a reusable abstraction taking on vastly different meanings depending upon the listener, whereas songs with lyrics are a bit more literal, linear, and documentary.

These differences pale in comparison when considering the contrast between compositions, performances and recordings. Consider4ing these three creative manifestations independently of genre for now, the greatest difference between the three is how they are rendered, both initially and eventually.

Compositions can be initially rendered as scores or as recordings, and even these vary extremely widely. A score can be hand scribbled on a scrap of paper or painstakingly transcribed for multiple instruments of musical staffs, conventional, newly invented, or hybrids. Recordings can be as simple as a recording of a solo voice or as complex as multichannel multi-tracks, and these can be captured in real time or painstakingly assembled with 50 or more synchronized and overlaid tracks.

One thing to consider is that what can be assembled in either a complex score or a studio may be impossible or unaffordable to perform because of the large number of independent sounds, sources, and processes. In some genres, the composition, performance, and recording are the same, and in others, vastly different, and there is everything imaginable in between.

Given the enormous number of degrees of freedom in these processes it can be very difficult or even impossible to define what a given work is as what is captured is often a point of departure. For example one can write, score or record a 32 measure melody with or without harmonic underpinning expressed explicitly or symbolically as in chord changes and depending on who you hand it to it will be manifested in very different ways. If you wee to hand this to a jazz pianist you might get within the a five minute rendering multiple different ways.  If you were to hand it a monophonic solo classical non-improvising artist you might get back a one minute rendering could be nearly identically repeated. If you handed it to a singer songwriter with a guitar, they might make up some lyrics and change the chords if you provided them at all.

A composition can a point of departure and a recording can be like arriving at a destination. Multiple recordings of the same composition will usually end up with a range of destinations which is a function of how many different people and styles are available.

What’s a composer to do? Record yourself playing the piece yourself for a baseline rendition to depart from.

Entropy Reduction

Friday, February 23, 2024 at 7:47:13 AM Eastern Standard Time

Time to reduce the entropy in my life 

1. **Divide and Conquer:** Employ the Salami Technique to segment your cleaning tasks into smaller, more digestible portions. Rather than confronting the entirety of a daunting chore, break it down into manageable slices. For instance, instead of addressing “clean the entire house,” focus on discrete objectives like “organize the pantry” or “sanitize the bathroom fixtures.”

2. **Sequential Progress:** Proceed methodically by addressing one task at a time. By concentrating your efforts on a single facet of the cleaning process, you can maintain your focus and prevent feelings of overwhelm. Approach each slice of the task with diligence and precision, ensuring thorough completion before advancing to the next segment.

3. **Acknowledge Achievements:** Celebrate milestones along the way to sustain motivation and morale. Whether through a brief pause for personal reflection or a modest acknowledgment of progress made, recognizing each completed slice reinforces a sense of accomplishment and encourages continued diligence.

4. **Adaptability and Resilience:** Remain flexible in your approach, prepared to adjust tactics in response to unforeseen challenges or changing circumstances. Just as a skilled chef modifies their recipe to accommodate evolving conditions, be willing to reassess and refine your cleaning strategy as needed.

5. **Visualize Success:** Maintain a clear vision of the ultimate objective – a meticulously clean and organized environment. By visualizing the culmination of your efforts, you can sustain motivation and derive inspiration from the prospect of achieving a thoroughly completed task.

With the application of the Salami Technique, meticulous attention to detail, and a steadfast commitment to sequential progress, you can effectively navigate the complexities of cleaning tasks with poise and efficiency.

Reconciliation

Day 365 Week 52 Q4 Sunday, December 31, 2023

The action of making one view or belief compatible with another seems like a good way to end one year and begin the next. We often talk about being on the same page as a metaphor, and now that the worldwide web is ubiquitous, there is even a place and a page to do so. Think about how difficult it is for large entities to agree on what they want to say on their home page. Imagine delegating this task to a webmaster. Unless a senior management team member is driving this process, it is not likely that the entire enterprise can reconcile its identity on a single page.

As we are generally of more than one opinion or belief about most issues, even if unconsciously so, this act of reconciliation is a nontrivial exercise. And is there ever a conscious time we take the opportunity to internally reconcile our point of view and get on the same page? Perhaps the end of one year is a good time to update social media profiles, which seems to be another way of getting on the same page.

Do your answering machine messages,  email signature blocks, websites, and if you have one business card, all say the same thing? All connote who you are in a consistent manner.  I am certain I do not and equally certain that this does confuse people.  It has become so easy to say who you are in various persistent manners that most of us have a jumble of messages out there for the world to see about who we think we are, who we thought we were, and who we aspire to be.

And, of course, we do have multiple roles in life and show different faces to each other at different times. I am sure we even internally have more than one identity as well, which is context-dependent and a moving target. I am thinking on this last day of the year that perhaps some sort of reconciliation might be in order.

Of course, the downside is that the world might know who we are better than we do. The synthesis of all of our profiles, past and present, likely paints a different picture of us than the one we are currently holding of ourselves. This is especially true when we take into account not just what we consciously wrote or said but what pictures say about us. Many of these pictures may not even have been posted by us but by others, and we may not even know of their existence or posting.

Additionally, if you have been around for considerably longer than the internet, the composite profile will likely leave out large hunks of your life. It is a lot harder to get a handle on people who are either not represented much online or over-represented online.

It is just an end-of-the-year thought that some sort of reconciliation might be in order.

Sustain Rules

Day 363 Week 52 Q4 Saturday, December 30, 2023

In most matters, sustain rules it rules in terms of relationships. It rules in terms of jobs, which I guess should be a kind of relationship. It rules in terms of sex. But what I’m thinking about most is the rules in terms of guitars. When you play a note, and it lasts for a while, then you know it is there. If it fades away in an instant because you were playing 64th notes, it just doesn’t matter very much.

The electric guitar and the acoustic guitar or two very different instruments. Of course, the acoustic guitar came first. But the problem with acoustic guitars is the notes don’t last for very long. You plug a string at the notice here, and then it is gone. This is why people like to sing in the bathroom, in a cathedral, or in any place where there are reflective surfaces to keep that sound bouncing around for a long time. It is also the reason why distortion on guitars came into such vogue. It was the way to make a note last longer. The Guitar was just trying to keep up with violence and saxophones, whose players could make a note last for a long time.

Yes, it can be flashy to play very quickly, and this seems to be one of the marks of virtuality, but the reason Miles Davis became famous, is he played long notes. Now, there are times when Sound lasts for too long, like when musicians play in a gymnasium. A cathedral sounds much better than a gymnasium. For that matter, when somebody speaks, if there is a tremendous amount of reverberation, the intelligibility goes way down, so sustain is not always preferred, but it always rules.

Coming back to Guitar for a moment, one of the most famous guitars in history is the Les Paul. The body shape is instantly recognizable, which is why it is still so popular. The reason it is instantly recognizable is because when you play a note on a Les Paul, it lasts for a while. The guitar weighs more because there is more wood in it, which allows notes to be sustained for longer.

Even though a Gibson less Paul sustains for longer than a Fender Stratocaster, the other superstar famous instrument, neither can stand alone without an amplifier. Without the amplification, you can’t hear the sustain because it is not loud enough to overcome ambient noise, except in the middle of the night or early in the morning before anybody wakes up, and there is not much sound competing with it.

With or without an amplifier or a pedal, sustain still rules because the note doesn’t last, so you don’t know that it was ever really there. This is true of people as well as Notes as well as ideas. An insight is to be adopted that it has to be sustained long enough to be adopted because sustain rules.

Letting Things Settle

Sometimes, you have initiated so much activity that it would not be useful to initiate more. The steps that are in process, have to be completed before you can initiate another set of steps without unsettling what you have previously put into motion. In part, this is because there are always dependencies in life. In other words, something has to be completed before the next action can reasonably and securely take place.

There is only so much parallel activity that can occur, no matter how impatient or how good you are at multitasking. Because there are other people involved and other processes beyond your control once they have been initiated, it’s kind of like playing the piano. Once you have struck a key, and the hammer flies through the air before it impinges upon the string or set of strings that will be sounding, there’s nothing you can do because you have lost control of the sound production process.

There is a trade-off to be made. There are many instruments where you do not lose control of the process once initiating a note has occurred. In fact, this is true of most instruments. All of the instruments that are blown, such as woodwinds and brass, are said to have a driving function. This means that when you begin to blow, the instrument sound comes out, which you can hear, and then you can modify that sound by changing the pitch and the level. This is not true with a piano. It is, however, true for all of the strength instruments but not quite as true as the wind and brass instruments. When a note is initiated on a guitar or any other fretted instrument, there is still the possibility of applying vibrato while you are listening to this note. In instruments that are bowed, such as the violin, a musician can change both the duration of the note, the volume of the note, and the pitch of the note in a similar manner to those instruments that are blown.

And here’s the trade-off on the piano: you can play 10 notes at once but lose control over all of them. Once they are sounded, and on the instruments where you can play one note at a time that is bowed or blown, you can only play one note at a time with that much control over each note. So you have the choice between detailed control of expression and simultaneity that supports complexity.

In other words, you can either have harmony or expression unless, of course, you get more people involved, as in an ensemble, a band, or an orchestra. Sometimes this is when you have to let things settle because you are not in control of everything, as there are others involved. And that is when you have to let things settle or normally become frustrated yourself but frustrate everyone else in the process. 

Dotting I’s Crossing T’s

Day 361 Week 52 Q4 Thursday, December 28, 2023

Dotting I’s Crossing T’s

The act of creation is messy. Hey, supposedly, even God rested a day. Whenever we do a deep dive into a project, we are likely to make a mess. Scraps of paper pieces of ideas works in progress. The mess comes about effortlessly, but cleaning up after it not so much. This is why when you are done with a project, you’re not done unless you have allocated time to restore conditions to where they were before you made the mess.

It generally takes a substantial amount of time to clean up, which is why most creative people have dedicated workplaces to do their creative work, which they do not have to clean up. But if you are a cook, and you make a meal, and you are prevented from making a second meal until the first meal is cleaned up, then it is worth your time to clean up as part of the process of creating the meal.

There is a lot of processing required in life to reduce entropy to the point where you are able to move forward, and sometimes, I think we create a mess to prevent ourselves from moving forward. This can be a particularly insidious type of procrastination. Or a false way to feel like you were done when you were not really done. How much time is necessary to clean up? How much cleanup is enough? These depend on the kind of thing you are doing. But whatever you were doing, there is cleanup required, and it may be substantial. In fact, it is likely to be substantial.

Some people are terrified of blank pages. I am terrified of the full page that needs editing. A blank page or clean slate. if I am composing a piece of music or writing a book or inventing a new product or new market category, I love it when things are not very defined. I like actually something new from disorder, but that does not mean that I want to operate within a disorderly place. It means when you are dealing with a new field, there’s not such a mess of prior knowledge to process and prior people and baggage to deal with. I, for one, would much rather deal with the unknown and the undefined.

The way I figure, if the process that is required is routine, then they don’t really need me to do it. My greatest value is dealing with situations where nobody knows what to do. This is why it is so difficult for me to clean up because there is nothing unknown about it. Since it is totally known, it is mostly totally boring. But I do have to admit that it is a great curiosity why it is so difficult to clean up, and therefore worth some scrutinizing.

For, after all, this is one of those situations, and nobody knows what to do, including me. Time to dot my I’s and cross myT’s.

Missed Morning Mist

Day 360 Week 52 Q4 Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Most people, most of the time, are not up or out barely enough, nor in a rural enough place to see the morning mist caressing a field. The wispy blanket, not quite a fog, not quite making it difficult to drive, caresses the empty fields until they awaken.

This is what it is like when you are operating in a field that is not yet quite known to the rest of the world because you invented it. It is quite early; you are quite alone, and no one else is seeing what you are seeing. Every time you arrive at the intersection between two known domains, because the action is truly at the edges, it feels like driving before anyone else is on the road; you get to see things no one else can see, and they are also as tentative and fragile as morning mist. it is a difficult, difficult experience to share, because there are no words for it. There is just an understanding that you are on the road, and you see clearly words going, but not clearly enough what the obstacles are, yet you drive forward anyway.

This is what discovery feels like. Beautiful, hard to share, not seen by most, and most of the time, alone. Some of the time, you have the good fortune to be traveling with someone else, who also becomes a witness to the morning mist. This is very helpful because later on when you are attempting to describe the new territory you are traversing and the new sites you are witnessing, there can be someone to remind you that you are not crazy. Believe me, most of the world will tell you you are crazy because you were trying to describe something that they have not only never experienced but cannot imagine either.

When you clearly see what others cannot even imagine, it usually takes years for others to be able to share what you see, and perhaps they will never understand what you understand. This is the place I am most comfortable. Out early, on an unraveled road, with the sun barely rising and the mist on the field, where you can just barely make out the outlines of what is ahead, but you are quite clear and certain where you are going.

Most of the time, by the time the rest of the world sees what you were seeing, you have moved on and lost interest in that particular site because it may be years or even decades later., and you were not standing still but have driven another million miles over morning misted feels.