Tag Archives: art

Star Wars: The Experience


Star Wars: The Experience at the Pacific Science Center was amazing. The production models and costumes were simply works of art. I can’t believe that they worked with mostly off the shelf technology, yet they produced something so realistic. I was so close to the original Millennium Falcon model that I could see the laser burns on the hull. It’s like they were telling a story through a sculpture of wood, LEDs, and molded plastic tank parts. 501st legion also showed up to pay their respects and pose for some sweet photographs. And then there was the Millenium Falcon theatre thing! I feel so bad for having Sara wait in line for all that, but it was all so totally worth it!

I wish I could work on something like Star Wars. I guess I’m unique in that when I look behind the magician’s curtain, it doesn’t ruin the magic for me, it makes it more exciting. I feel as though I’m looking at the product of a real life philosopher’s stone: Something as mundane as lead has been turned into gold through the power of illusion.

I love hearing stories about how they made this entire universe out random junk they found at a medical surplus store. All the failed plans and wrong turns just fascinate me. It took all their ingenuity and cunning to do what they did. No one told them they needed this degree or that skill, they just had 12 million dollars and a deadline to hit, and they did it! They turned a potential disappointment into one of the most important cultural forces of the last century. When my mid-life crisis hits, you can spare me your sports cars and fantasy baseball or fantasy rock and roll camps. Anybody who wants to profit off of my self-actualization can send me to Industrial Light and Magic camp.

Cranking it out: On Being Prolific

I’d like to write down one of those unwritten rules: Better Prolific than Good.

It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are, or if you know what you’re talking about. The public at large would rather see 10 mediocre works of art than 1 superlative opus. This applies to books, movies, software, furniture, or any other human endeavour. It doesn’t matter how good it is. Society is more likely to encourage you if you just keep cranking it out.

This applies to the highest levels of business and achievement. Electronic Arts got big because it could produce a Madden game every year for the past 20 years. Apple has a yearly product cycle. If you don’t like the current model, just wait until next year. Even perennial products like Coca-Cola have to keep producing ads to keep their product in touch with people.

Even if you are bad at what you are trying to do, being prolific is a win-win proposition. The more you produce, the more you’ll be able to look back on your prose or code and think, here’s where I can improve, here’s where I can work on my game. It becomes a process called “Deliberate Practice”. I’m reading all about it in Talent is Over-rated by Geoff Colvin. If it’s mentally demanding, repeatable, provides constant feedback, and not necessarily fun, it’s kind of practice that’ll take you from struggling to world class.

A lot of people say that we lose our capacity to be prolific in grade school. It’s where we develop our fear of failure. I disagree. That damage is done at the post-secondary level, where your entire grade is based on 4 papers and an exam. That’s 4 opportunities for feedback before you are judged for all time. If you fail, it’s another grand to retake the course. In grade school, the feedback is constant. Teachers work every day to find new activities to develop student understanding. There are many opportunities to mess up an assignment, but there are just as many opportunities to improve.

I have yet to find a K-12 teacher who wouldn’t give their eye-teeth for a class full of students who try to find new ways to learn the material. Meanwhile, as an adult I’ve been scolded for not taking a professor’s perspective on Ginsberg. Take a look at the Clayburn Middle Youtube channel. Almost all the videos have been shot and edited by students. If Clayburn has any problems, I can guarantee you those kids behind the cameras aren’t part of it.

As adults, we think we’ve figured it all out. We don’t think we have to go through the embarrassment of learning anything new. However, the world’s changing so fast that we have to learn new things no matter what we do. It’s best to get comfortable in that situation. The only way to do that is to be prolific.

 

Inspirational Speech for Toastmasters Feb. 11, 2011

Madame Chairperson, fellow toastmasters, and honoured guests. I’d like to welcome you all again for joining us during open house. Some of you may be wondering what we’re doing here half past the crack of dawn every Friday. Well, as I’ve said before, if I can give a speech out of one bloodshot eye, I could give one anywhere. But what else are we doing here? The Toastmasters mandate says we’re here to make effective oral communication a worldwide reality.

Now why would we want to do something like that? Sure, it could help you with a career or a best man’s speech, but what does public speaking do really? I’ve only been part of the club since December, but from what I’ve seen, public speaking is the art of creating a moment.

Right you are not just listening to the words coming out of my mouth. You are hearing my voice. You are seeing me gesture. You are seeing the way I stand. You’re also experiencing the sights and sounds of this room and your fellow audience members. This is something that you can’t get from a letter, a phone call, or even a video. It is a moment in time, happening right here, right now.

In that moment you’ve created, something wonderful happens. Things change. Suddenly your idea for a little weekend side business becomes a real commercial venture. Suddenly a rag-tag sports team you coach becomes a true cohesive unit. Suddenly the friends and family at your wedding realize just how much your new wife means to you.

At Toastmasters, we are not just filling space behind a podium. We are bringing ideas to people. When many people focus on an idea at the same time it creates a moment. And in the very moment, the world changes.

Just Start

At times running a business can feel like you’re wrestling an octopus. You know all the book-keeping, HR, Marketing, Insurance, production and taxes that the captains of industry get other people to do for them? For now, all those duties fall to you, sunshine. Which job will you do first? How will you do them? Will you do it right? God help you if you don’t do it right! 70% of businesses fail within their first year, you know!

I haven’t been in the entrepreneur game long, but I find there’s one little strategy that gets me going in the morning: I start.

Every morning, I open my project management software, my e-mail, and a text editor, and I start. Bad work, the kind you’ll kick yourself later for doing is infinitely better than no work done at all. So what if it’s not the best balance sheet/business card/website/elevator pitch in the entire world? As of right now, you may be the only person on this enterprise, and therefore you’re the best you’ve got. You can get help if you’re really stuck, but help might not know what you want if you don’t pick up that keyboard and start. So if you’re an entrepreneur, staring a blank laptop, you will be much better off if you gather the trappings of what you think you’re supposed to do. Whether it’s a book for research, your schedule for this week, or your bank account spreadsheet, your purpose will become that much clearer if you Just. Start.

Tribes

I want to talk for a minute about tribes. It’s one of those buzzwords that I keep hearing about in marketing circles. People talk about tribes for pages and pages until the word has lost all context. Tribes, as Seth Godin defines them, are groups of shared interest. Simple enough. It’s your basic unit of human activity in the modern world. Your church can be your tribe as much as your book club or people sitting next to you on the Westcoast express. But to hear tribes being talked about by Godin and his followers as if they are some kind of ineffable magical totems. Find your tribe! Connect with your tribe! Your tribe will protect you! Those people outside your tribe? They are not important! The important thing is your tribe! Your tribe!

I’ve read Seth Godin’s book on “Tribes”. It’s not as airy-fairy as the associated literature has led me to believe. Getting a “Tribe” is not just about finding like-minded people. It’s about giving something of yourself to help people. Notice I did not say “establish yourself as an expert”, another phrase I keep hearing on marketing blogs. To those bloggers, a “Tribe” is just a cool word for self-promotion. They don’t give something of themselves. They just want an echo chamber to tell them how brilliant they are. When you actually do the work that is worthy of attracting a “tribe”, whether it’s an e-book, a video, or some handy piece of open source programming, that work stands on its own. It will get people talking, listening, and even criticizing, but it’s not about your name, it’s about the work. There’s no fame or fortune to be had, just a symbol of your gifts and abilities. Believe me, that’s plenty.