Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Web and work

One of the maxims business experts like to throw about these days is that your business must cater to what the people want.  Certainly, in terms of making money this is true.  I tend to doubt that it’s useful advice, though, in terms of being happy.

Often, what you’re doing – especially in an entrepreneurial circumstance – is working on your deepest passions, and often there seems to be no interface with the public at large.  You’re developing a new widget, or offering a new service that you believe in 110%, but few others seem to appreciate your product.  You knew from the start that your focus differed widely from that of the masses, but it is the thing that floats your boat and involvement in some other direction would be simply inauthentic.

I do not approve of diminishing or watering down your offerings for the sake of popularity.  Will the madding crowds care a fig for you in the end?  Isn’t it smarter to stay loyal to your highest dreams, the ones you intuit will save your soul?  There’s no surer road to defeat than compromising your own truth, even if the path that is true to yourself  is rocky and full of potholes.

Thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, staying true to yourself is now more possible than ever.  With patience and commitment, you can find the precious few who appreciate your values, wherever they are in the world, and build a support (and feedback) structure that will enable your continued work.

If  ‘flipping’ or ‘scaling’ is what turns you on, the net can help you amass millions of supporters.  But if creating and developing are more to your taste, you can use the web even more productively, through dialogue, connections, and marketing.  So please don’t fall for the directives of people with base aspirations.  Please choose to find your own truth, and work on developing your gifts to their ultimate expression, and don’t worry if what you produce is not of the instantly popular variety.  As long as it nurtures your being, as long as you stay open to discovering, as long as you generously share, you’ll find not only rewards but sustenance.

The coincidence of massive layoffs currently, and the proliferation of the web seems serendipitous to me.  So many people, many of relatively advanced age, needing to find new means of support, while the web continues to open up all the resources of the world to each of us.  It’s an evolutionary leap:  perhaps instead of selling our souls to the corporation, we can now contemplate the very real possibility of developing our individual awareness and gifts.

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Twitter thoughts

I’m a newbie at Twitter, having signed up just a couple weeks ago.  Touching in on it just now and then, I certainly haven’t wrapped my little brain all the way around as of yet; but I can say that it’s phenomenal in the extreme.

I follow, so far, a variety of types:  cohorts in the VA industry, as well as thought leaders of the highest calibre.  The tweets on my home page range from “taking the kids to school” to unabashed company promotions, to quotes from geniuses.

It’s the combination of business proclaimations, stimulating ideas, and superficial banter that’s confusing.  Many posts invite responses, so conversations of a sort do take place.  But it seems to cater more to the lone voice, regularly tossing out impressions to the world at large, hoping a few will resonate with your tone and contact you for business or other profitable projects.

It’s like a global billboard – an electronic one that changes constantly.  You’re looking for ‘followers’ on Twitter, which is a very different thing from ‘friends.’  Of course, a great many Tweetpeeps are not leaders, and their tweets don’t offer much to their followers, beyond recognition of the tweeter’s copasetic personality.  Which is important, but not very deep, not endlessly fascinating.

How does Twitter help your business?  If you are passionately engaged in what you’re doing, and have a persistent interest in all aspects of your field, it’s clear that Twittering will connect you to kindred souls and daily feed you stimulations.  I do wonder, though, about the efficacy of Twitter for those who lack this focus.  There’s little of value in their comments.  Perhaps Twitter is a tool they can use to deepen their commitments and focus their interests. 

In sum, I think Twitter’s a serious business tool, and really not a ‘social medium.’  It’s evidence that businesses must now include free sharing on a grand scale, and that we succeed best through cooperation, rather than competition in today’s world.  It forces us to consider the whole of our lives as dedicated to new discoveries; and to study the meaning of our work, 24/7, including its impacts on all aspects of our lives, and a continuing intensive study of how our actions and products affect others.

Your brand can bite you

Sheesh.  A couple things happened yesterday to give me pause.  One:  I responded to a Request for Proposals and was rejected from the job with the single comment to my proposal – “odd?”  Including the question mark.  Meaning my internet presences they checked out implied a strangeness, an abnormalcy.  Sigh.

And two:  I succumbed to curiosity and entered this blog URL at www.typealyzer.com.  There, my writing was characterized as INTP – Idealist, Intuitive, Thinking, and Practical.  Well, that’s all very nice, but what’s lacking are the Feeling and Sensing sprectra, implying that I am insensitive to others.

Ouch.  It’s true that I tend to the analytical, and choose to write succinctly about issues, offering my viewpoint on life today.  But I’ve always considered myself to be extremely sensitive, and concerned with the welfare of those around me.  Apparently, my writing here fails to reflect that side of my personality.

All this, then, points to the reality that a brand can easily take on a life of its own, and can even become the master when you’d expected it to be your servant.  Brand monitoring must be constant, and lively creativity is required to shape it authentically.  You have to live symbiotically with your brand, giving and taking with careful generosity.

I’ll have to let you know how I intend to modify the gloomy tangent my brand seems to have taken.  It’s going to require some intimate conversations with myself.  It’s an exciting challenge, though also a humbling one.  Discovering and sharing the fullness of self is a process that’s never completed!

Diameters vs. degrees

Driving back from a visit to family yesterday in the steady misty rain, I thought about circles and perspectives.  On the road, I tend to fixate on the signs of all kinds, reading every one as I pass, and the habit is limiting.  So with an effort of will, I move my vision to the surrounding landscape, and view the trees and hills instead.  Accompanying the switch is a release of the mind, from the mundane to the sublime.

We are each the center of our worlds, and the circle around us describes our awareness.  But because we westerners tend to think linearly, we often just gaze out, instead of around.  We look to widen our circle, and admire the reach of those with gigantic tribes surrounding their centers.  We respect diameter, but seldom put much thought into degrees.

The number of degrees in a circle is infinite.  Unlike the infinity of diameter, which stretches indefinitely in front of us, the infinity of degrees keeps the focus on the center, on our selves right where we are.  Rather than striving to move from A to B, with concentration on the degrees of your circle, the challenge is to gather rather than grasp, to refine rather than expand, to study the fullness of what is rather than endlessly covet strategic growth.

I wonder if this analogy is apt in suggesting new ways to approach economic health.  The 20th century was all about extending reach and the worship of size.  The perspective served its purposes, but now we see the concommitant waste, pollution, international tensions, and injustice that result when forward progress alone is the ideal.  Now we are beginning to think more about the quality of perception; about how tending to all the degrees of our circles is healthier and more rewarding than focusing solely on their diameters. 

When considering how to deal with business losses and the prospect of sluggish sales for many months yet to come, the image of the circle perhaps can help.  Seth Godin has championed tribes, and this idea is very similar.  The concept is about the quality of your service and relationships, the authenticity of your participation in society, the generosity and efficacy of your offerings.  It’s about examining the opportunities that already exist for you, and achieving success by making the most of them.  It’s about creativity and a heightened sense of appreciation.  It is no longer about dominion and fame; ‘progress’ in today’s world means exploring the numberless degrees of your circle, and actually being careful not to fix your vision on any one outward direction.

UFOs and Thanksgiving

The other day, CNN featured a video of fine upstanding pillars-of-communities who join the ranks of those who have spotted UFOs.  One of them, an accomplished pilot, was asked why our exposure is so rare; why, if aliens are interested in us and visiting regularly, don’t they just come in and take over?  The answer offered was that this mature, thinking man is not sure they haven’t already done so!

If you have kids, you may suspect the truth of this possibility.  Sometimes the sensibilities and motivations of young folk seem alien indeed.  Where do they get their crazy ideas?  How is it that my 20-something son and his cohorts have ideas about economy, religion, lifestyle, and ambition that seem to be from outer space?  This example is only partly tongue-in-cheek; I admit to being entirely of two minds on the subject.  I don’t really think my son’s an alien, but then again ….

Considering the likelihood of life on other worlds seriously helps in putting your priorities in order.  If existence encompasses much more than the flotsam and jetsam of this planet – if beings and societies can flourish under completely different circumstances than we know – our standards of measure can change exponentially.   The range of possibilities explodes.  Material wealth, keeping up with the Joneses and the trends, and getting control over your personal empire all shrink to puny endeavors.  Racism, political domination, religious wars, partisan bickering, and the desperation of housewives suddenly become worthless wastes of time.  If we’re not alone in the Universe, we can finally perceive our Narcissism, and let it go.

Thanksgiving’s my most favorite celebration for many reasons.  This year, it works its wonders with special grace and power, I think, because of the economic trouble we’re experiencing.  When stripped of wealth and other indulgences, you can see more clearly the blessings all around, the ones you did not earn or create, the ones that are freely and naturally given.  Like thinking about visits from Martians, this year’s giving of thanks can open the mind and free the imagination – an unbeatable Return on Investment!

Social media revolution

Studying intensely this strange animal called social media marketing.  As communications is the major focus in my work, I recognize the social media movement as revolutionary in the extreme.  It may upend not only our marketing practices, but every aspect of business planning and operations. 

One issue we encounter when establishing communications online is how to balance personal and professional posts.  Given the time involved in keeping up with, say, your Twittering, you’re probably inclined to have just one account there, and not try to maintain several different ones.  The culture of the ‘net requires a very soft touch in your marketing posts, with an emphasis on your personality more than on the services/products you offer.  Many folk in the social marketing course I’m taking wonder how to synthesize; how to be personable but also aim for an ROI.

In my opinion, this question is at the heart of the movement’s meaning.  We’re looking at re-inventing our economy right now, and a large part of the new global understanding is that we’ll succeed by being authentic, by aligning our personal goals with whatever we do in the business world.

This is a major difference from the past, when your job was generally regarded as something apart from your true self.  Our challenge now is to identify and focus on the things that are actually personally meaningful; to use our personal, native creativity in service to the world’s needs.  When what you do for money is closely aligned with your personal dreams and understanding of reality, posting and commenting online in a way that’s both personable and professional becomes second nature.

Does this mean you should change jobs?  Maybe.  But more likely, it means that if you apply foundational creative thought and practice to your daily grind, you will begin to see how your work is an expression of your self.   Whether you flip burgers at a fast food joint, run errands for the boss, make automobiles, or own the company, careful, creative observation will bring you an understanding of how this work aligns with your deepest motivations.  It’s from that place of clarity that we must all proceed.

Grounding

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I was struck by the strength and steadfastness of this cow on my walk yesterday.  Thinking about re-inventing the self, per yesterday’s post.  Actually, we never have to re-invent our selves; though at times we may be constrained to re-vision our idea of self. 

A cow’s idea of self has admirable tenacity, no matter where she finds herself, no matter what the external conditions.  She is who she is without questioning or apology; and her very ‘is-ness’ provides constant and reliable nourishment.

Big 3 bailout

Weighing in on the Big 3 bailout, I’m thinking about means versus ends this morning, and about the primary responsibility of being an adult these days, particularly in America.  Our understanding of that responsibility is changing drastically.  It used to be that individual professional achievement sufficed to earn both self respect, and the admiration of peers.  But we’re evolving, shaped by global forces, and we are beginning to see that responsibility means using your personal achievement for the benefit of others.

Michael Moore is certainly a force to be reckoned with.  He may be extreme, but his passion for his fellow humans is to be admired.  Here’s the takeaway:  he uses his talents as a filmmaker in service to society.

Many others do the same, of course, but many, many more do not.  The norm is to apply one’s talents to  personal enrichment, using whatever means to achieve the end, which is envisioned as a place of personal security and happiness.

Global realities, though, and such burgeoning threats as climate change, force us to reconsider.  It is not enough to be a good writer, or musician, or salesperson, speaker, mathematician or scientist.  If we do not apply these skills to the very pressing problems of our fellow man, we are not fulfilling our responsibility and we will not benefit in the long run.

So the Big 3 spent the past 50 years being attentive to the whims of society, but turning a deaf ear to its serious needs.  After 9/11, I remember, some people clamored for SUVs because they felt protected in these tanks.  The auto manufacturers were happy to cater to this silly paranoia.  They were happy to use their talents in service to our weaknesses, because that guaranteed them a large market, for another year anyhow.  They seemed to have no ability to see anything past the next year’s fashionable new styles.

(I find it interesting that my son, who is an awesome actor, refuses to have anything to do with the world of performance.  He’s spending his time seeking a way to work towards a vastly improved future for us all.  He does not view his talent as his ticket to ride: he senses that his happiness lies only in the happiness of us all.)

So, I do not think the government should bail out the Big 3, or any other private business.  Even though their demise could seriously impact the lives of a couple million people or more.  Something has to happen to awaken us to our responsibilities, and bailouts – as any parent will tell you – generally have the opposite effect, enabling, coddling, and obliterating any thought of improvement.

Instead of a bail out, we should let these companies find their own way; let them expire, and let others – such as those of my son’s generation, many of whom seem to naturally understand this new responsibility, lead us into the future.  And those many auto workers?  I feel their pain; I’ve had to re-invent myself several times in my adulthood, and it’s scary in the extreme.  But it’s a choice for life, as opposed to wallowing in practices that are sure to cause global depression and even possibly the extinction of the human race.

Presidential doodles

Wow.  What a lot of fun … cnn.com’s story this morning about presidential doodles.  Check it out.  Obama is a caricaturist!  Now, we know this guy is really smart, but who knew he was an artist?  Actually, these are very advanced, almost not what one would call doodles.  Still, they were apparently produced in that distracted state of usual doodling, which takes place as one listens to something entirely unrelated, such as a speaker at a meeting.  They came, in other words, from Obama’s subconscious; and as such, they reveal that his subconscious is extraordinarily organized.

In contrast, the CNN story made fun of Palin’s messy scribbles.  It also briefly showed the doodles of past presidents.  Apparently, there’s a book that has collected these souveniers.  I’ll have to look it up.

Of course, the story goes a long way towards proving my deep belief in the benefits of doodling.  Perhaps, rather than using the words of a politician to judge their worth, we should look hard at their doodles.  I wonder what McCain’s style is. 

It’s not that drawing excellence, or precision, or organization is necessary in doodling.  But a page of scribbles from any individual, created while their attention was on something else, will reveal with absolute honesty the state of their inner being. 

It appears that, in electing Barack Obama, we have for once made a choice for someone whose inner being reflects all the sense and sensitivity of the outer man.

Ethic of conservation

I’ve been reading Thomas Friedman’s amazing Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and am full of an urgency right now about our collective future.  Friedman says we are in dire need of three things: clean energy, energy efficiency, and an ethic of conservation. 

It’s this last one that worries me the most.  It’s the one that is most difficult to define, talk about, and transition to.  We’ve spent a century being wasteful in the extreme (especially in America, but also globally).  We’ve abandoned thrift and humility; we seriously believe we’re entitled to huge wealth and to using resources any way we wish to advance our greed; we measure success in terms of material possessions, and generally (if sometimes secretly) admire profligate spending.

Introducing and firmly establishing an ethic of conservation is a formidable mission.  The term does not mean just recycling soda cans or newspapers; it suggests a transition that changes the roots of thinking.  It involves losing all sense of entitlement, and fostering an attitude of constant gratitude and care.  It actually requires that we orient our lives towards compassion, that we leave personal greed behind and exist only for the benefit of others.

Anyone out there see this happening anytime soon?  Probably not, but our healthy future depends on it.

I have an older sister whom I idolize.  About ten years ago, I noticed something about her that, at the time, actually irritated me.  She has a way of being infinitely gentle with absolutely everything: people, ideas, and things.  She is always attuned to the feelings of others, and will sacrifice without hesitation for their needs.  She asks questions, rather than making pronouncements.  She puts away the clean dishes without making a sound.  When I first realized this, I was irritated by what I perceived as a weakness in her.  But soon enough, I came to undertand that she was not at all being obsequious; rather, she was operating from a well-entrenched ethic of conservation.  Ever since, I’ve been working on emulating her.

We must take conservation to heart, to the very source of consciousness and personality, and learn to exist day to day in unbroken compassion for all things.  Such a re-invention of thought is an almost impossibly tall order.  Nonetheless, we must chip away at it, or eliminate the human race.