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Lessons in Multitasking

Busy, busy, busy winter.

  • 2013 is off to a fabulous start – I’ve transitioned into a consulting role with a super-neat startup in the Boston area to work on pushing the company to scale with an influx of multi-sided users.  It’s been a whirlwind and with quick, significant progress  – I’ve finally found the women’s restroom no less than eight weeks into the game.  There’s incredible potential for the technology they’ve developed, and we’re going to take this thing far & wide.  The visionary & strategic aspects of my role are incredible, and it’s caused a deep realization that hey maybe this is what I should have been doing — not the process-oriented roles I’ve filled in the past.
  • Timing is good too – a smart friend recently left his comfortable job for greener pastures in the world of marketing convergence.  What is this magical term I speak of?  It’s the first time anyone has linked together all marketing activities directly to business activities and directly to consumer activities. It’s a closed-loop system. Our tool is super easy to use and – best of all – doesn’t require the coffers of the Catholic Church to implement & maintain.  I’m proud of it, excited about it, and ready to introduce much much more in the coming weeks.
  • I’ve been writing, albeit slowly, working on an old/new project.  You remember Notes from the Field, right?  It’s undergoing a reboot and when I finish the intense outline, it’s hitting the publisher circuit.  (Another one you’ll be hearing much more about in the coming months.  I’ve dedicated nearly all my flying time to writing – except Superbowl Sunday and when I get jammed next to someone who insists on invading my space, brain, and consciousness with their nosy inquiries.)
  • Commercial and residential real estate is also on my radar, though I seem to spend more time kicking the tires than finding what I want. Essentially, I want to build out some decent commissary kitchens for up & coming chefs, home bakers, and those who want to break into the catering, food truck, and other food-types of business.  It needs to include a small cafe and a market (ideally), but finding the right-sized warehouse space that I can purchase & get up to code hasn’t been an easy task.  From the residential side – it’s time to put down some roots, if only so I have somewhere to come home to on the weekends.  I just don’t know where (yet).
  • And, of course, this past Saturday  marked the beginning of the soccer season!  Pictures & stories forthcoming — though I’m excited to coach another season with the girls. (They’re now 7 1/2 years old.  It’s our eighth season and going strong.)

Yep, this year is shaping up to be a game-changer.  Let’s make it happen together though — tell me what you’re up to!

Twenty-Four Hours

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I listen to (read: dance to) Katy B’s “Louder,” the more it seeps into my day-to-day life.  The more it seeps into life, the more the underlying philosophy guides the days, weeks, and months.  Where I’ve previously described the angst of the ‘quarter-life crisis,’ it’s not the memories of my youth that I mourn, but quite the opposite: that instead it was wasted.

Listen for yourself:

(It doesn’t help that I looked like that at 16.)

It was a handful of weeks ago that I was driving to work, thinking to myself “is this what being grown-up is?”  The constant nagging feeling that I don’t really have any answers to the same questions that plagued me years ago, just a a few glimmers of insight.  I feel exactly as I did at 16, but with a few additional responsibilities and a whole lot more freedom.  I still drown out my thoughts with loud music; I still drive fast; I still escape situations where I’m awkwardly uncomfortable; I still coach (and play) soccer; I still adore the same things I did then (though the list has expanded some over the years).  And while I appreciate the present tense moments, I’ve never given in or been seduced by them, at least long-term (momentary weakness: yes; reckless addictions and compulsions: no.)  Which leads to an quirky question: did I miss out on an undefinable something called youth?  And worse yet: is that why I still feel 16?

I think this is a good thing, albeit odd.  Going through photos of friends, a handful of them have grown up – they’re married, some with kids, they have houses and mortgages, and have piled on the responsibility and sacrificed (some) freedom.  And they’re happy, happier than our parents were.  Yet it’s not about the rite of passage-style events anymore – it’s all about whether they’re still in touch, moving and shaking in some way.  It’s been made much easier to move toward and from the edge, in constant, dynamic flux with the use of social technologies.  ‘The man,’ as previous generations have declared, will get you, bogeyman-style, when you lose your cultural edge. Now, there’s no excuse.

My millennial generation has grown up in a period of unraveling and fragmentation in the cultural sphere, yet we’ve always been cared for and protected through this instability.  It’s said that we were the generation who elected Obama; it’s said that we can’t function alone, but only in teams.  We’re coming of age, not necessarily into adulthood, but into a larger role as we become the dominant power in this sphere. And given our predilection for optimism and energy, we’ll be the generation to redefine, fight, and expand our cultural power.

Certainly I’m part of that.

I’ve been working on a couple proposals for two serious – and high-minded – projects that can and will change the face of education, utilizing technology and the social space.  These projects address the continued fragmentation of education and the crisis of insurmountable debt (and the uneven impact to show for it).  I’ll be the first to say that my undergraduate education gave me the skills and abilities I needed – and the network to back it up.  My graduate education gave me the clout and discipline of responsibility.  I use none of my degrees in their narrow fields; it was never my intention to do so as none of them are vocational-level degrees.  I want to share this freedom with the world; I want the world to have the same opportunities I do and to be able to take these opportunities at any point in life.  Friedman and his disciples call this principle “flattening” – I call this necessity for a world soon (if not already) in the midst of cultural crisis.  Education isn’t a magic bullet, yet it is a stepping stone in the right direction.  The ability to think, to read, to write, to create, to analyze – these skills are priceless as the foundations of any existence.  A government is only as effective as its citizens; a culture only as pervasive as its citizens; an economic system is only as strong as its citizens.

And I have the heroic impulse (and 16 year-old indefatigable, youthful optimism) to take on the challenge.

My voice is getting louder.

Back in Action, Jackson

Annnnnndddd….

I’m back! It’s been a bizarre couple weeks – between the death of a noted international terrorist, the demise of a basketball legacy, and a wholly renewed sense of good old-fashioned American ethic and optimism,

things.
are.
great.

Now to focus the plethora of notes and ideas, knowledge and experience into a fresh and innovative proposal – I’m tickled pink at the prospect of a design mired in elegance and the opportunity to execute with a hungry, altruistic team.

And a shout-out to Grapevine High School – thanks for picking my book Sunday’s Child as “semi-required reading” for your reunion this summer!  I can’t wait to meet & greet with y’all!

Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness due primarily to self-righteous anger.

A smarter friend once said depression is anger turned inward.  Is this state of mind (and full body assault) then depression turned outward?  That final snap triggered to the unreasonable, irrational, illogical catharsis?

For years I’ve attempted to chronicle exactly this situation (with fictional twist) and even now I’m thwarted.  I’m living it, I’m experiencing it, I’m watching so closely yet this is the point where writing gets hard.  I don’t know what to say or what to write and as I try typing out these words, the ones you’re reading right here, the anger recedes from the overboil to a bare simmer.

And its in these unobserved moments I find that little bit of hope and optimism amid the swirling ugliness released.  That I can do this.  That I can make this work.  That it will all be okay.  That I will survive and thrive, and that one day I’ll look back on this and think “yep, that was the right move” – or think “yikes, screwed that one up” — but still I fight regardless of the regrets or affirmations.

So while I may have hit extreme burnout, and while this anger causes trouble and underconsidered or ill-advised action, tomorrow will be different.  Starting tomorrow, it’s all mine.

A Funny Thing Happened Today at Cartier

Or at least it will be funny when the new watch I ordered comes in and is fitted to my left wrist and highly satisfying to take a hammer to the one I’m currently wearing because god help me if I’m ever that mortified again.

And in the same vein,

I love that I’m independent.  I love that I have the ability and fortitude to rectify this and any other situation.  That no matter what I can take care of myself – and do so without pretense or fabrication.  I love that I can spend Saturday running errands, then indulging in a little bit of retail therapy without buying things as a salve for a deeper emotional issue.  I love that I can come home late Saturday afternoon, strip to my skin, and throw myself a mini-spa hour (and a half) – and I love that I can then order a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, meatballs, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sun dried tomatoes and spinach — with extra garlic.  I love that it’s Saturday and I can stay home, curl up with a book – or I can go out and have a glass of wine alone – or I can wander the aisles at Whole Foods and come home with a odd mish-mash of really good food.  That I live by myself in an apartment I really love (even if I don’t love the management company) and that I can provide fully for myself and my family and those I love unconditionally.

Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve been in a good mood.

Maybe it’s just that I’m settling into a good groove and I’m optimistic about what’s coming next.

Maybe I’ve let go of the hidden worry and fear that I won’t be loved again – because I will.

And I’ll even tell you why: because there was a moment yesterday afternoon when I (finally) saw how important it is to love myself, if only because I’ve made others suffer because I haven’t.  I’m not the enemy of myself, though I’ve sure as hell waged a damn good twenty-something year battle of self v. self.

Cliff’s Notes version: I’m the problem.

And because I’m the problem, I’m the only person who can change it or fix it or do something about it, whether it’s straight up abatement or temporary injunction or imperfect compromise.

Which brings me to a related issue:

I’m a creative person who likes – no, needs – to be immersed in collaborative work.  Simply, I need to work with smart, creative people.  Who are not like me — who are more than me.  More visionary.  More creative.  Smarter.  Faster.  More more more to combat the collective weaknesses (my own included) and enhance the collective strengths (my own included) and achieve the common goal.  This isn’t a lofty abstract desire; this is a need.

The problem with collaboration is that it requires true commitment.  Discipline.  Passion.  Attention.  Even habit.  And the emotional, personal connection with collaboration is crucial – you gotta be a believer or it all falls apart.  You take make anyone play on a team, but if a single member’s heart isn’t in it, the whole collaborative process is a sham, a ruse, a shell of false idolatry.  Add in an inability to effectively communicate (ahem, honestly and openly), add in a layer of politics, and add in a disaffected attitude, and welcome to disaster.

Also known as my personal hell.  The wide-eyed promise of collaboration for an amazingly awesome goal torn apart because the discipline, attention, and passion of one single team member rings hollow.  To see the house this team has built is a case study for the gods – yet this house will be bulldozed because we didn’t choose the perfect wallpaper in the living room and there’s a leaky faucet in the bathroom, that…it destroys me.  It disrupts the collaborative process – that discipline, that habit, that passion – and for what?  Something trivial.

Maybe it should be seen from another perspective – that I allow the destruction of this one house to distract me from the neighborhood of houses previously constructed.  That I’m the disruption on the team rather than the guy sitting in the ‘dozer.

Problem is, the guy sitting in the ‘dozer doesn’t know how to operate heavy equipment…and probably doesn’t realize what’s going on or what he’s about to do.  Yet another sign something is in rotten in Denmark, another indication of poor communication and inadequate leadership.

And here we come to another rampant weakness of mine: reason and precision.  Always tell me why.  If only because it’s the only thing that will convince me that at minimum you understand what it is you’re doing and see the scope of things as something slightly larger (at minimum) than yourself.  Or you don’t, but are still okay with things not being larger than yourself.

And another weakness: trust.  I’ll trust you until you give me reason not to.  You can earn trust back after that point, but not without a considerable amount of effort and energy, at least to partially compensate for the time, effort, energy I expended in cleaning up the mess I trusted you not to make.  (An honest “I’m sorry” typically does the trick.)

Despite the weaknesses, I don’t know what to do about the breakdown of collaboration.  Smear a layer of frustration and disappointment on as well; it brings out the troubling flavor from the overmasticated texture.  Some say go to the mattresses; others say mercy; still others wonder if there’s a trusted resource able to do anything.  I fear the die has been cast and only now are the implications of betting everything peaking through the veil of a hasty, backed-in-a-corner decision.

A Question Answered

On a fairly regular basis, I’m asked about the nature of ideas.  More specifically: where do your ideas come from?

Typically I laugh and make a snide-to-snarky comment and lop-sided grin about the birth of ideas akin to the birth of babies – one more titillating, one more compelling than the other.

But seriously.  Like babies and boyfriends, they come when you least expect them.

I’ve killed weeks and months at a time in a reverie and daydream, just drifting out in the doldrums.

And I’ve murdered weeks and months at a time drowning in anxious-yet-mundane tasks guaranteed to kill the spirit and livelihood of creativity.

I’ve slaughtered time reading, observing, hearing, watching others’ great (and not-so-great) works, studying their miscues and brilliance.

Time was never really the difference to my great surprise.  No matter how I spend my time, the rate or quality of creativity doesn’t change.

And then, while talking, I launch into a monologue proudly proclaiming that it’s different for everyone.  That everyone has their ‘ah-ha’ moment no matter what they’re in the middle or beginning or ending or purgatory of.

And then I pause,

And say,

But for me,

it’s the welling up of an emotion deep inside me, to the point that if I don’t stop myself, I’ll scream or cry or demons will burst from my abdomen or angels sing from my head and I think I don’t/can’t take another breath – it’s that moment right there I look for because

then,

right then,

if I step out of the catharsis, lean back in my chair, close my eyes for a long, slow blink,

that’s when it happens.

It’s simply that ability to purely reflect on what you know and what’s going on around you- all together instantly and without any self-interest other than to get to just one more breath — and shazam, there it is.

it’s then I approach a theory, perhaps as selfish validation:

Nabokov described inspiration as two parts (though he didn’t assign ratios) – the first half as rapture:

“a combined sensation of having the whole universe entering you and of yourself wholly dissolving in the universe surrounding you.  It is the prison wall of ego suddenly melting away and the non-eogo rushing in from the outside to save the prisoner – who is already dancing in the open.”

The moment where time ceases to exist.  Where there’s no conscious purpose in existence.  The idea.  The moment lightening strikes shock through the air.

The second half he describes as the recapture – the conscious work of construction.  The idea in practice.  The thunder following the lightening.  As you blurt it aloud and start to reflect on what it is you’re saying and continue in a babbling way trying your damnest to position the idea, put boundaries – it’s always with sparkling eyes and increased tempo (in a gentlemanly fashion – others I’ve known fancy more toward crazy eyes and irregular tremor through the body).

The issue, I pointedly say, is finding your ratio – balancing the lightening and the thunder to fit you.  I’ve seen too many taken down by rush for one direction or another, whether by drugs or alcohol, by gluttony or avarice, by talent or lack thereof.  All in the hopes of finding something they thought they needed, even though it was there all the time.

In all, I believe, the storm will come.  No matter the singing or dancing, the lollygagging or grind.  Just be open to more than rain.

The Game

I’ve had my mind on the piano for the last few months, mostly thinking about sitting down and playing again.  I wasn’t ever a virtuoso by any stretch; the recording below has me fat-fingering a Rachmaninoff piece (and enhanced applause at the end – I was in front of maybe 10-15 people at the time it was recorded back around the time electricity was invented) and I never gave it the dedication needed to hit decency.  Though it is evidence that yes, I can play more than Chopsticks or Heart & Soul.

Prelude in G minor

It’s the spectrum of dedication, passion, and obsession that I’ve pondered in the few quiet moments, often when driving or when sitting and waiting for the next thing to happen.  I fully recognize I’m a mediocre fiction writer; I’m not particularly creative or inventive, but have just enough ability and talent to squeeze by.  And (to some extent) I’m okay with this – I recognize I won’t write the ‘great American novel’ or anything of the sort.  I likely won’t ever sign a book deal as forcing myself into a commitment day after day isn’t my idea of security.  It’s my idea of prison.

To some extent I feel fraudulent – as though I’m giving up – when instead it’s that I’m shifting my focus.

[To what, you ask.]

To which I reply “A career.”

My safety net is a small neighborhood cafe and bakery, the type of place I find myself aching over each and everyday.  It’s evolved through the grandiose visions (known then as Cauldron) and the quirky hole-in-the-wall existence (known then as Baked).  Some girls grow up dreaming of their wedding; I’ve seen this dream through twenty-something years.  But similar to fiction writing, I can’t do just that.  Never have I ever just done one thing; I lack the ability to accept only what I have in front of me and not think/dream/work toward something bigger and brighter, a characteristic known simply as ambition.

And what a waste of ambition to throw away on sweet and savory baked goods, day in and day out.  (Never mind the hundred other skills, abilities, and desires I’ve cultivated over the years.  If I never practice law, I’ll be a happy camper.  If I never own my own business, I’ll consider this life a waste.)  Paired with a larger vision and a plethora of things to accomplish – and the right team – I can give all myself to a project.  All the dedication, all the passion, all the obsession simmering below the surface.

Contrast this with my current situation: I’m working for a company who’s singular goal is to bring educational opportunities those those who couldn’t afford it, couldn’t make time for it, couldn’t achieve it, not because they weren’t smart enough or capable enough, but simply because life got in the way.  I’ve never worked for anyone or any type of organization with not only a crystalline goal but a crystalline goal I very strongly (and very deeply) believe in.  I’m thrilled to go to work almost every morning because it’s my job to help convince a person that yes, they can/should/will do this.  I find myself slipping into obsession, not out of dedication, but out of passion for this goal – I am inspired by those I work for.  I find myself uniquely frustrated by those who can’t or don’t hold this goal as close as I do; to many others it’s just a job, the same job that can be accomplished anywhere else.  And I’ve finally dug out of that mindset – after years of careers that dried up passion and dedication, jobs that shattered closely held ideals and left syrupy residues of nasty ethical compromises, I’ve found my swansong.

But am I ready for where it could take me?  Am I ready to put aside the small-town dream of a bakery, the mid-town dream of owning and managing commercial real estate?  The American dream of owning my own business and putting my ideas to work be damned for someone else’s great idea?

A few days ago, I saw my ending with this company.  It’s a political suicide, not shrouded in loyalty or pride, but in self-respect.  The metaphor I’ve used to describe it to others: imagine you’re twenty pages into a book and you already know exactly how it ends.  It doesn’t matter how long the book is, it doesn’t matter how the plot twists or turns – the ultimate destination has already been cast, the pieces are moving, and now I’m playing the game.

The question isn’t why I’m playing – that answer should be pretty obvious.  The question is who am i: the ‘go get shit done’ piece or the pawn who ‘gets capped quick’?  Do I play the game with agility or finesse?  Who is working against me, seeking nothing other than to trap me?  It appears that no matter my passion, my dedication, or my obsession my fate is written.  For some, this bleak post-modern outlook is persuasive.  It justifies the conspicuous spending and paranoid hoarding of resources.  It allows the ego to take on mythical qualities.  It reduces us to a caste despite the ravenous clawing for power in each interaction.

It’s an one-sided outlook of the game.  A philosophy I don’t subscribe to.

But it does give me pause to consider whether what I believe – no matter a fleeting state of passion or perpetual state of dedication – is true.  And whether knowing the ending should influence my decision(s) in the game.

Blinking Eyes

Anne Hollander & broken
Broken

A very wise man said to me a few weeks ago “slow down, take your time – or you’ll burn out.”

I admit I’ve heard this many times before; my version of patience allows for a fully streamlined perfect execution gliding gracefully into a deadline – no screwing around or wasting time once the decision(s) have been made.

Had he (or anyone else) admonished “slow down, don’t do everything – or you’ll break something,” it may have caught me off-guard just enough to take a couple eyeblinks in consideration.

‘Cause in the blink of an eye Saturday morning, I lost functionality of my right arm.  A freak accident on the soccer fields, my five year olds laughing through my starry-eyed daze.  Hours later, it was declared I’d broken my arm in two places, smashed my elbow to smithereens, and disrupted the delicate musculature of my shoulder.  And so I was immobilized and provided sleep courtesy of a narcotic bouquet.

Today the appointment with the orthopedic specialist was serious.  My career with the piano may be officially over and in two weeks, I will return to have more photos taken (x-ray and MRI) along with a determination as to whether surgical intervention is necessary to reset the bones from my hand to my shoulder.  In the interim, a soft splint from my knuckles to armpit, a lightweight design to allow the shoulder to heal, but with the determination of molded fiberglass locking my hand, wrist, and elbow into stationary place.

Then it was home to sleep through the trauma and its slow tedious repair.

A particular sadness has swept through me to the tune of “this is what it takes – still?”  Bodily trauma has been my wake-up call again and again – and again and again.  Now that I look at up to twelve weeks (!) of healing followed by therapy, now that each and every action I take has attention and purpose, I have an overriding need to determine whether purpose and action align elsewhere in life.  Frieda Kalho evaded depression by painting.  I avoid the same with writing.  Now that it takes me longer to physically write or type the words, what will happen to my frenetic style as I now have several blinks of consideration before the word fully forms or appears?  Add the strengthened desire to write despite the exceptional pain, however modulated, and suddenly I’ve developed a new (improved?) voice and style.  With that, can we expect new (and improved?) action and purpose?

Time will tell.

In Praise of Quitting Your Job

This is my constant struggle, but said much much more eloquently.  Original by Ben Pieratt, available here; shamelessly reposted by me; comments in blue are mine.

Update: just as a little bit of background, I’m back in the interview process for a few different positions, one of which I’d kill (or seriously maim) to have.  To be perfectly frank, I believe it would be perfect for me, especially considering this post below.  Too often I’ve worked with those who weren’t inspired nor inspiring.  This position, company, and people I’d work closely with would radically change that experience – already I’m inspired and thinking and the job isn’t mine (yet).  Regardless of what happens concerning the job, it’s affirming to know that I can still be inspired by those I work with AND that I’m appreciated for my skills, talents, and abilities, and especially for my creative, problem-solving mind.

Now back to your regular programming:

In Praise of Quitting Your Job

(Alternate title: The New Work Ethic)

I wrote this email to a friend a few weeks ago, and then the topic came up again last night with an old buddy who was frustrated with his work. He seemed to appreciate what I had to say, so I figured it might be worth sharing:

– – –

Thinking about your comment at the end our call. Thought I’d put some words down. Apologies in advance for the presumption.

The reason I’m so supportive of you quitting your job is that I’m intensely empathetic to your situation and I believe that you’re doing everyone a disservice by sticking around.

I’ve worked for a handful of companies over the course of the last 6 years. I started all of them with a fair amount of enthusiasm, but within 5 months of each I dipped into a depression. By 7 months the work was having a tangible effect on my mood and outlook, and by nine months, I’ve quit almost every job I’ve held. The longest was 12 months at [Redacted], and that was only because I wanted my options to vest. I handed them my resignation on my 366th day.

I always feel like a waste of space in these situations. Part of the depression stems from being so useless. Why do I hate this job so much? What is wrong with me that I’m so entitled? People the world over have jobs they don’t like, why am I unable to stick this out?

I could wax on this for a while (and I did, but then deleted all the paragraphs), but I think it comes down to the fact that, for some people, work is personal. Personal in the same way that singing or playing the piano or painting is personal.

Totally agreed on this point, and I beat myself up about this (and how I shouldn’t take it personally) each and every day. Every. single. day.

As a creative person, you’ve been given the ability to build things from nothing by way of hard work over long periods of time. Creation is a deeply personal and rewarding activity, which means that your Work should also be deeply personal and rewarding. If it’s not, then something is amiss.

Okay, small point of disagreement: things are not built from nothing.  It comes from something existing (usually many things), but re-ordered or re-expressed or re-done or re-concepted in a new, inventive, innovative, creative way.  Usually these “things” are solutions to problems; the more complex the problem, the more nuanced the solution(s).  Creative folks relish the fact that there isn’t just one way to do something – there are millions.  Don’t believe me?  How many poems, songs, paintings, books, expressions are out there with the singular goal of telling someone that you love them?  I rest my case.

Creation is entirely dependent on ownership.

Ownership not as a percentage of equity, but as a measure of your ability to change things for the better. To build and grow and fail and learn. This is no small thing. Creativity is the manifestation of lateral thinking, and without tangible results, it becomes stunted. We have to see the fruits of our labors, good or bad, or there’s no motivation to proceed, nothing to learn from to inform the next decision. States of approval and decisions-by-committee and constant compromises are third-party interruptions of an internal dialog that needs to come to its own conclusions.

I’d like to state for the record that I’m not anti-committee and approval.  In fact, I need others’ feedback regularly in order to keep the process going.  It’s a struggle to balance out the need for stimulation (creative partners and decision-makers) versus the need for isolation (to actually get something done) however, and I do agree that interruptions in the process are creativity killers, especially when surrounded by morons who either can’t wait for an idea to develop and see a drafted product OR who can’t make a decision or provide feedback.

Your muse can only be treated as the secretary of a subcommittee for so long before she decides to pack up and look for employment elsewhere. If you aren’t able to own the product and be creative, then you aren’t able to do your work, and if you’re not doing your work then you’re negating a very real part of your personality, which is no good for anyone. No good for you and certainly no good for your employer.

I’ve come to terms with my own inherent work issues simply by recognizing that my weaknesses in one context are strengths in another. When I am able to own a project or product, I work hard and I work well, and I like to believe it shows in the results. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone is willing to spend stupid amounts of hours on a project simply because they believe in it. This is worth recognizing.

My strengths: problem-solving.  Give me a challenge, something complex, and let me run with a white board and several marker colors.  Once we’ve got it figured out and approved by necessary parties, I’ll oversee the implementation, but if you don’t give me another problem to solve, I’m gonna get bored.

My weakness: when I believe in something, I pour myself fully and entirely into it.  I’m not a typical 9-to-5 employee; I don’t leave my brain in my desk at work, and when I’m faced with something where the solution we need isn’t clear, I’m probably not gonna be at my desk.  I’ll likely be outside, or running at the gym, or drinking coffee and watching people, or listening to music or driving or drawing – something that requires just enough attention to let my brain focus on what I’m doing physically and not  overanalyze a problem or possible solutions.  Amazingly, my ideas percolate best that way.  And if I have no ideas initially, research research research in the veins of good art is copied, great art is stolen.

My point is simply this. From what little I understand of you and your situation, I feel like I can empathize. I would guess that you’re juggling a handful of self-loathing with a justified sense of entitlement. This is something that I came to peace with after I left my last job, and I get the sense that you’re still struggling with it.

Bingo.

I suspect that eventually our culture will catch up with our evolving understanding of work ethic and the personal nature of work in creative fields. In the meantime there’s going to be a lot of wasted talent pushing too much effort in the wrong directions. It is clear to me and anyone who interacts with you that a misplacement of your energies is at everyone’s loss. I hope that you’re able to recognize this fact and move forward accordingly.

It’s encouraging that not only am I not alone in these feelings, but that this other blogger gets it, publishes it, and makes it less my fault.

~ HUGE thank you to Ben Pierrat!

I Think This is ‘Writing Face’

The ‘Blog Face’ – I’m gonna need some voodoo-style wrinkle cream in the next five years.

For a day that’s been fairly productive, I’m now wading through the muck with ‘Travels with Molly.’  Trying to write the beginning – and going back to the original music I listened to during the development of the original idea back in 2005-2006.

[Yes, I can chronicle my music autobiographically.  Yes, you can call me Rob Gordon (though I also make obsessive lists, I have little need or desire to revisit past relationships – once was probably more than enough for me).]

The time period was full of genre jumping – but what I remember most was the commute to work in the mornings.  I was a cool kid: I had a first generation iPod (god, how did I live life before an iPod…oh wait – with a MiniDisc player), and I’d listen to it all. the. time.  I rediscovered music, wallowed in favorites, branched out and found new and different tracks, provided gratis from my fine musician and audiophile friends.  Vinyl was still a cherished medium, don’t get me wrong – but now I could stand outside in sub-freezing temperatures, waiting for the train, dancing along to Jet and the Black Eyed Peas and the Caesars…you get the point.  It was a big deal, you whippersnappers.  It brought color and vitality to an otherwise frigid grey day met with dark icy night.  It brought reprieve to the lab job I worked (read: slaved); brought sanctuary to the cubicle job I held (read: became disillusioned with); brought joy and gratitude with each play of Ok Go’s “Invincible” and “Don’t Ask Me” and “It’s a Disaster” – among several hundred other favorites.

That iPod met its untimely death when I dropped a 20lb weight on it at the gym.  It was pitiful.  I cried at Boston’s only Apple Store (and couldn’t show my face there again…until I bought a Nano in January 2006 – which still accompanies me to the gym).

But I digress.

It was January 2006 I remember best: standing on the platform, waiting for the train at Davis Square, stressing as both the train and I were to be late yet again, sick with anxiety, wondering how many other people waiting there on the platform were in devoured in their own personal hells as I was.  I’d known for three months I couldn’t continue as I was; I’d applied to a full-time law program; I’d applied to a variety of new jobs, new hopes, new titles, new responsibilities: and I waited, the clock ticking. slowly. in. my. head.  There was one particular day I got to work early, stimulated by an idea of Langston Hughes – I’d woken before my alarm, thinking of dreams deferred – and without a glance or word to anyone, sat down in my cubicle, opened my laptop, and searched.  These were the days before absolutely everything was on the internet, and I couldn’t find it.  These were the days before coffee (my birthday, September 2006).  This was a day that I gophered above my cubicle, looked over at a co-worker’s empty chair, and made an executive decision: I’d be right back.

And to the Boston Public Library I went.  To the expertise of a librarian, through the stacks, to just the collection: and there it was.  A dream deferred.  And then I wanted to see Allen Ginsberg.  And then Kerouac.  And whisked away through the byzantine library, surprisingly populated for a Tuesday morning.  I absorbed and analyzed and lingered and with sycophantic pleasure, I pursued, now on the hunt for just the right written words.  The clock in my head stopped ticking, the clock on the wall finally flying after months of dreary monotony.

I returned to work the next day without explanation, I think.  I’m sure there was some laconic excuse – there usually was.  It wasn’t worth sharing the truth, that finally I’d pieced together together the puzzles of my despair.   It wasn’t appreciable, not in such a raw, pornographic form.  All I shared was a singular idea, just before leaving in May.  I thought I’d never feel as free as I did that departing day – turns out the albatross evaporates with every good decision, every good move, every personal stand and victory.

And I love it.

Next anticipated date of freedom: maybe July 30.  Maybe August 8.  Maybe sometime in September.  Consider me in full state of preparation, just like the old days, from here on out.

Scratching a Spine

I’ve got an idea coming together at warp speed and I’m electrified by it.

Though I’m not sure I can fully explain.  I’ve been reading (sneaking, much like candy) Twyla Tharp’s treatise on creativity and suddenly I’m exploding with new thought patterns, processes and more.  In the book, Tharp speaks passionately on the need for scratching together a whole and the need for spine in an idea.  I’ve got the itch and the spine and the boxes of notes and information and reminders and lightening impulses – now I just need time.

Ignore the man behind the curtain for a moment – the story I’m writing is a cross between the myth of Narcissus, the Wizard of Oz, and the death of David Foster Wallace.  Throw in a little bit of ‘you only see what you want to see – and little more’ and a dash of exploding obsession and a hint of revolution along with a few spoonfuls of generational angst dedicated to Carl Solomon – and we have a book.  A book built on the construction, destruction, and renovation of a dream in the present grasp of the fetishized generation.  Falling in love with a vision of yourself can only lead to an obsessively brilliant death.  Simply, from Dostoevsky:

“She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn’t know you. During the two or three little outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favor, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you really are.”

It’s time to write.

Zola the Chopper

For the first time ever, I was on a motorcycle this past week. Allow me to introduce Zola, a beautiful fiery red chopper, and her owner, Stephen:

The experience was incredible.

And that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment – it was incredible.  We traveled through Grapevine, opening it up out on the access roads paralleling the highway, crossed Grapevine dam, wound our way through downtown.  I got into my car the next morning and something was off; the car wouldn’t respond or go like Zola (nor its driver) did.  I found myself speeding excessively, windows down, in a subconscious attempt to feel as open and free, thrilled and submissively trusting – as I had the night before.

It’s still riding on my mind, the wind through my hair, forcibly filling my lungs and etching my face.  And that type of submissiveness – to the driver, to the bike, to the elements – yet still maintaining a dominant presence.  Hmmmmmm….

It’s a perfect experience for a shift in a person’s outlook, if not being.

Hmmmmm…

Act Two: At the Sea

I came to the little house on the sea about four pm or so after driving – how long now, four or five days, maybe. Small little houses lined the rough asphalt road, forlorn and empty, longing for the summer sunshine, families and kids, dropped ice cream cones, barbecue grills, sand in the bedsheets. Instead the salt sprays blew against the exterior, warping the siding and etching the paint. I’d followed my nose, that prickly salty seaweed scent from the highway, turning the car down long stretches of houses, the leaded windows rolled down to catch the breathy breeze. I’d never seen the ocean, but knew its smell instantly; there was nothing else ever like its funky clean odor.

The little house sat at the end of the road, its front door bathing in winter light, its back porch sitting tall on stilts. Any of the houses would do, I supposed; I hadn’t seen any sign of people for the last half hour, and this one, just like the others, had wooden shutters hiding the windows, no newspaper at the foot of the drive, no flowers or shrubbery. Just a wind chime hanging precariously at the front door. I turned the car into the graveled drive, pulling it as far from view as I could, around the side of the house, a thousand points backward and forward. And then I sat, I don’t know, maybe ten minutes, just staring out over the dash, the sea shining gold in the afternoon sun, waves tickling the shore. I thought I’d gone deaf when I’d turned the key, silencing the car motor; I thought I’d lost all my senses, my body numb from the vibrations, my knuckles no longer white, my nose crusted full of a salt, my eyes glazed in awe of the water everywhere, drawing and pushing itself in and out again and again. It was the tinkling of the wind chime to restore faith in my ears, the touch of sand just outside the car door to restore touch to my fingers, the final exhaustive sigh of the car to crinkle my nose.

I opened the car door, slid from the seat and stood on wobbly legs at the head of the boardwalk leading down to the beach. Already sand irritated my skin, caught under my watch. I removed the watch and my shoes, rolled up my trousers above the knees, unclasped my bra, discarding it in the back seat. How long since I’d walked more than a few steps from the car – five or six days, maybe – as I stepped onto the creaking boards in my bare feet, my heels only grazing the splintered wood. It was twenty-two steps downward to the sand, another sloping eighteen to the cold wet slush. I hesitated, bracing myself for the unknown. Four tentative steps and water caressed my ankles as I gasped, my feet covered with icy water, goosebumps electric up my legs, across my arms, shivering in response. I stood there dumbstruck with the slushy sand sucking my toes, looking out, an irrational voice cajoling me to another step and another step, and one step more, as the water raced around my legs pushing toward the shore, sweetly singing for just another step into the depths. I couldn’t feel my legs or feet as they took another step, soaking my trousers with the next great rush, again grabbing my breath as they stuck to my thighs.

It was then I turned just slightly back to the sand and the speck of a little house, happier now with the tiny car in the drive, all of it rising above the dune, above the waves soon to overtake my hips. I waddled out, my mind now racing with glory – how incredible the ocean! – shivering uncontrollably, my legs heavy and stupid with cold, my feet thudding up the boardwalk. I peeled the trousers from my legs, tossing them haphazardly atop the car hood, searching insistently for an open door or window, a blanket or towel. One window, the last I’d tried along the back porch was unlatched and I, with the grace of an elephant, crawled through, my body hitting the wood floor with a bruising thump, laying there for just a moment to take in precisely where I was – and for the dust to settle.

Though the exterior of the house was uniformly plain, the interior I can only describe as a forgotten mausoleum by the sea. Pristine dust layered across each surface, yards of cobwebs laced the low ceilings; furniture vintaged by age overpowered by mold; orange and green rust pocked metal hinges and appliances; the walls pale blue – maybe? – decorated with water stains; beams of light seeping in from cracks in the shutters . Vacation houses and time-shares were supposed to line these the beach, yet no soul had crossed the threshold in years, only the wind, the rain, and the sea. It was then I worried: would I find earthly remains in the adjoining rooms? I reconsidered everything, from taking the car to the trip to stopping here and breaking into this house, close to tears for the obvious insanity of it all, my heart pulsing through the floorboards with untempered fear and unwilling curiosity. “What happens now,” I whispered, a grain of hope for no reply.

And the Bride Wore Yellow…

(It was an incredible day. More pictures via Picasa!)

Do You Remember?

Over the past several days, I’ve listened to ‘Do You Remember’ non-stop.  (The days have also thrown in a bit of Keyshia Cole and Kesha and the Pussycat Dolls, but only in small doses.)  If you’re not familiar…

Generally speaking, I’m moving backward to move forward – remembering and reconnecting the past in order to get into the future. Even typing it seems trite and childish, but by my scout’s honor, it’s working. And enabling me to take some big(ger) risks in the near future.

And an update on Molly: the scenes are still disconnected, but streaming rather than droplets. This is improvement.

And a shout-out for the weekend: book launch, signing & party on Sunday, 2-6pm, Into the Glass, Grapevine, Texas. Don’t want to come to Grapevine =just= for the book signing? Experience Thomas the Train with the kids, the Chocolate Extravaganza at the Palace Theater, and more! Something for everyone, even if you’d just like to drop in, grab a book, get a signature, nosh some appetizers, enjoy a little wine…

Time for a Party!

New Book from Anne Hollander: Book Launch & Signing in Grapevine, Texas

Anne Hollander will sign copies and celebrate the launch of “Sunday’s Child: Tales of Love, Loss & Redemption in a Texas Wine Bar” on March 14, 2010 from 2-6pm at Into the Glass, Grapevine, Texas.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PR Log (Press Release)Mar 08, 2010 – Anne Hollander will sign copies and celebrate the launch of “Sunday’s Child: Tales of Love, Loss & Redemption in a Texas Wine Bar” on March 14, 2010 from 2-6pm at Into the Glass, Grapevine, Texas.

“Sunday’s Child” (www.annehollander.com/sundayschild/) chronicles a small town stuck between history and progress, its citizens caught between local parades and international events, and an intimate setting to discover the true facets of love, loss and redemption.
These seven short stories share the joys and pains of life and death, love and loss, politics and culture, all within the walls of a blues cafe and wine bar.  Enjoy the laughter, tears, indignation, daily struggles, and interactions between the illuminating folks bellying up to a bar in effort to experience something new, something old, borrowed time, and the blues.

“Sunday’s Child” has already sold more than four thousand copies, a strong showing for first-time author, Anne Hollander.

Event Details
Date & Time: March 14, 2010, 2-6pm
Where: Into the Glass, Grapevine, Texas (www.intotheglass.com)
Location: 322 Main Street, Grapevine, Texas 76051

Anne Hollander (www.annehollander.com) is a freelance writer and social marketing consultant in Dallas, Texas.  Ms. Hollander graduated in 2004 from Smith College and regularly travels the world in search of stories and characters.

Book Details
Title: Sunday’s Child: Tales of Love, Loss & Redemption in a Texas Wine Bar
Author: Anne Hollander
Publisher: Anne Hollander
Website: www.annehollander.com/sundayschild
ISBN: 978-0-557-26560-2

Breakthrough: 2010

My brother sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review on the Breakthrough Ideas for 2010.  In all, they’re about prevention via innovation.  (An aside: the Hollander children are always reading a quirky collection of articles and reviews.  If you’re up on Google Buzz – or even Google Reader or Delicious, lemme know.  I’d love to see what you’re reading these days!)

In short, here are the top 10 ideas:

1) Getting to the Bottom of Worker Motivation

(Hint: it’s not about recognition – it’s about progress.  Head’s up to managers everywhere: if your workers don’t think they’re getting anywhere in their day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year, they will leave.  I speak from tremendous experience on this concept.  It’s time to abandon the autocratic time barriers to promotion!)

2) Technology to Revolutionize Health Care

(Hint: improving care – and medical records – via remote monitoring, whether through kiosks or through wireless updating.  Think about it.  If our mothers and fathers wore a personal health device that could update daily, or in some cases hourly, and communicated with medical professionals, we may reach the pinnacles of preventative medicine.  Imagine warnings generated to your doctor or practitioner – who can then follow-up with a phone call or office visit?  Certainly there are significant privacy concerns to address, but these technologies have an opportunity to (finally) revolutionize cheaper and more effective preventative care.)

3) Research & Development Centers for the Financial Sector

(Hint: The overwhelming complexity of our financial systems have come to light in the recent meltdowns of lending and spending.  The author here advocates for a system similar to military R&D where research, development and spending are overseen by the government with little intervention.  I hesitate on this one to ask the simple question: how much good are the national security centers doing?  Certainly, what comes out of the centers is relevant and intriguing, but how much of the information is practical as it filters into bullet point policies and procedures?  To me, both systems are nuanced and complex – if anything, the breakthrough idea should be interdisciplinary in all regards, but the increased pressure to ‘see everything’ also lands us to where we see nothing.)

4) Changes to the Big Pharma Business Model

(Hint: business models are a’changing.  Finally.  In just a few years, there will be no need for an alphabet of the same type of drug (at least those in which we understand the mechanism).  By standardizing drug assets – that is, what types of drugs are in the pipeline across partnerships – not only can drugs hit the market faster and cheaper, but more medical conditions can be addressed, innovative developments can be researched and developed, and smaller, advantageous markets can be reached.  One caveat: regulations for intellectual property must be developed.  Sharing is one thing; stealing another.  Whether it be carrot or stick-based, innovation starts with regulation.  Then allow the partnerships to nourish themselves in free-for-all standardization.)

5) Capitalizing Green Technology

(Hint: Much ado in finance and investments is how to capitalize green technologies.  The promises of these technology hold no bounds, but first, as with everything, those with the money to finance such technology development and implementation need to figure out how to get their own ROI.  Enter green bonds, green credits, and a variety of other newfangled investment mechanisms.  This snippet addresses only municipal opt-in bonds, affecting only those who invest in the technologies and implementations.  But the idea is much much larger.  My own idea is larger than this, extending to a new sort of “stock,”  one held at a near constant number and available for purchase/sale on the open market (one location, however) only once a year.  No daily fluctuations in price; steady long-term investment instead, designed particularly for research, development and implementation of green tech.  This idea is already in the oven, the recipe from savvier financial experts.  But this is one of many potential markets for a wholly new investment mechanism.)

6) Lab to Market – Re-thinking Technology Licensing

(Hint: Allowing a monopolistic university technology licensing office has been sub-optimal with dreary results.  This idea allows for inventor-professors to step out and find their own licensor for their inventions, rather than allow them to languish on the shelf.  I find a hybrid system more beneficial than a free-for-all market, a situation to not only improve the university’s licensing process, but also manage a professor’s time to her actual duties – educating and research.  What this looks like precisely, I’m not sure, but certainly it would address the negatives from the university’s monopoly while regulating a capitalistic time-suck from university educators across the US.)

7) Work Hacking – Better Utilization of Tools in the Workplace

(Hint: get this!  You can’t control how your employees perform their work, especially in the name of productivity.  It’s neither practical or possible – and it’s highly likely those employees committed to the company’s higher vision recognize this also.  Should work hacking be unmitigated?  Certainly not!  Hacking comes in all forms – the innocent, the wary, and the sinfully guilty – all of which should be monitored for ethical and legal obligations.)

8) Warning Systems for Economic Bubbles

(Hint: as with anything, the ability to identify problems comes with the tools and data available to identify a problem.  This snippet suggests using current tools with different data pattern identification to find warning signs of an economic bubble – think of dot coms and housing – and prevent widespread bursts.  Combine this with the financial R&D idea from #3 and we’ll not only have more tools, but more data to interpret.  An aside: when combining these ideas, I get a mental image of a guru with a Magic 8 ball sitting in a lofty office…even if that’s what these two ideas are precisely intended to avoid.)

9) Charter Cities

(Hint: Use the Hong Kong model…of colonization?  To me, this is a half-baked idea (great in theory; misguided in practice) and requires WAY more incentive, planning, and enforcement than what’s available for countries facing issues of economic development.  It’s so economic hitman-esque.  While I agree small steps are the way to go in this regard, there are significant cultural barriers to understand and hurdle not in a sprint, but in carefully planned steps to avoid the stank (no, not stink – stank) of nineteenth century colonization.

10) Engaging Non-State Actors via Independent Diplomacy

(Hint: the world is a kindergarten sandbox, full of burgeoning and breakdown alliances.  Some kids play well together; others don’t.  Engaging those lone wolves has proved difficult, especially through the hard-line rhetoric popularized following recent American terrorist events (“with us or against us,” anyone?).  Punishing those who throw sand may not be the best way to keep them from throwing sand in the future; instead, independent engagement through established channels, rather than marginalization, may limit extreme behavior more effectively.  This idea, in a smaller nutshell: established lobbyists for independent, non-state actors, to bridge a marginalized voice with the established channels.  A compelling and fascinating idea – one which adds some shine to an otherwise tarnished profession.)

What I’m Reading Now

I get questions all the time about what I’m reading, what a person should be reading, the books I couldn’t put down, the books I couldn’t live without – and the books I avoid like the plague [I’m looking at you, Victorian literature!]

And so a quick sampling of what I’m reading these days:
Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About

“In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell presents an important idea without any ‘how to.’ Bertrand Cesvet provides the ‘how to’ you need to create ‘Tipping Points’ for your business and success. This book is a compelling presentation of a powerful idea. This is how the new world will do business.  Like all great ideas, Conversational Capital is at its core simple: word-of-mouth momentum can be created, harnessed, and used to build consumer passion for a brand better and more cost-effectively than almost any other marketing medium.  This book provides the complete prescription for getting consumers excited about your ideas.  For all the books that speak of the value of consumer advocacy, few indicate how to create it to begin with. Armed with a compelling set of examples from their own work in fostering leading brands, the authors reveal the triggers of word-of-mouth and a process to embedding them in your own products, helping you create stuff people love to talk about.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays & Arguments

David Foster Wallace made quite a splash in 1996 with his massive novel, Infinite Jest. Now he’s back with a collection of essays entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. In addition to a razor-sharp writing style, Wallace has a mercurial mind that lights on many subjects. His seven essays travel from a state fair in Illinois to a cruise ship in the Caribbean, explore how television affects literature and what makes film auteur David Lynch tick, and deconstruct deconstructionism and find the intersection between tornadoes and tennis. These eclectic interests are enhanced by an eye (and nose) for detail: “I have seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled what suntan lotion smells like spread over 21,000 pounds of hot flesh . . .” It’s evident that Wallace revels in both the life of the mind and the peculiarities of his fellows; in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again he celebrates both.

The Paris Review Book: of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travel…and Everything Else in the World Since 1953

The Paris Review, that mighty “little” literary magazine, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with an anthology every bit as mammoth and marvelous as its endless title suggests. Founded by Peter Matthiessen, Harold L. Humes, Donald Hall, William Pene du Bois, and George Plimpton, who remains at the helm, the Paris Review has published an extraordinary group of seminal fiction writers, poets, and essayists and some of the best writer interviews extant, irresistible conversations (Truman Capote responds to a simple question thusly: “Good Lord! I’m afraid you’ve let yourself in for quite a saga. The answer is a snake’s nest of no’s and a few yesses”) excerpted throughout this dynamic compendium showcasing more than 100 writers past and present. A shattering short story by Lorrie Moore kicks off the “Heartbreak” section, while Zelda Fitzgerald is first up in the “Madness” category. Rick Moody offers a painfully graphic variation on “Sex,” and Jonathan Lethem writes of a Tourette’s sufferer in “Outsiders.” Elsewhere the entranced reader will find Faulkner, Auden, Elkin, Cheever, Komunyakaa, Boyle, Erdrich, Munro, and Clifton.

Nine Stories

The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger’s children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances–some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic. The greatest piece in this disturbing book may be “The Laughing Man,” which starts out as a man’s recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief–a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include “a glib timber wolf” and “a lovable dwarf,” the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris-China border in order to avoid capture by “the internationally famous detective” Marcel Dufarge and his daughter, “an exquisite girl, though something of a transvestite.” The masked hero’s luck comes to an end on the same day that things go awry between the Chief and his girlfriend, hardly a coincidence. “A few minutes later, when I stepped out of the Chief’s bus, the first thing I chanced to see was a piece of red tissue paper flapping in the wind against the base of a lamppost. It looked like someone’s poppy-petal mask. I arrived home with my teeth chattering uncontrollably and was told to go straight to bed.”

As for what I want to be reading…check out my Amazon wish list for books (and more) in my near future.