I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and overall self improvement. I ran across an article the other day that mentioned a few books that can really help a programmer in that regard. But none of the books mentioned really needed to be confined to programming. Since I’ve read these I felt like I could share some favorites.
It’s a book about being a good person, caring about people so they care about you and knowing when to speak your mind and when it won’t matter one bit. It’s intuitive but a good read. It’s an old book so I’d be VERY surprised if you haven’t heard of it. I’ve always found it pretty easy to make friends because I am interested in people. So this book is an arrangement of ideas that I think people can benefit a lot from.
This book is about self-awareness and meditation. Normally I’m turned off by a lot of “old wisdom” that is a nice way of saying bunk. But a lot of the knowledge of Buddhism and Tibet is I think sadly a lost treasure. If nothing else, this and other books like it I hope will convince people that meditation is worth their time. Not in some strange pretentious pseudo-spiritual way but really grounded in the reality of the hyper-present moment. Because our brains aren’t perfect, we are subject to what seems to be randomness, uncertainty, often negative self-talk. What if there were a way to quiet and control your mind so you could feel a little more stable as you navigate everything in your world. Turns out there is, but people in the west haven’t really had a history with it to even have it in their tool kit.
It’s really important to learn to draw in my opinion. I use the computer so often sometimes my dexterity with my hands holding a pencil suffers to the extent where I realize something might be going wrong with me. I encourage everyone to draw and learn to see things flat in your mind, to translate colors and shades into a 2D image.
Start thinking about the process of how man-made things in our world are actually made. In some sense, it’s easy to construct something that is simple and functional, but not always. And competing interests in things like electronics makes it all the more difficult to retain something comfortable, usable, understandable and memorable.
Long ago, I saw networking as this contrived thing where you are pretending and everyone is trying to sell to you while you want to sell back to them. It seems so disingenuous. But I learned over time that humans need a few things that networking sort of solves. Humans occasionally need something to do outside the routine. So instead of the normal work days, mix it up once a month attending an event where new people are expected to be. And of course networking takes out beyond your small pool of friends and neighbors so you can discover opportunities that new people need you and you them. That’s not contrived at all. And if you don’t like the whole suit and tie thing, don’t worry you can dress however you want when you control the events that you go to. Most people would rather be themselves and would very much like to meet a real you. Because it’s not so much of what people can offer each other, it’s about knowing what’s out there from different people who do different things from you.
Sorry if you don’t like rhymes. So my friend Jake Wheeler and I do stunt shows occasionally. He’s a really good ramp rider. For his day job(s) he does all kinds of things, including making crazy bikes, art pieces and even fun shaped bike racks for store fronts. Give him a mig welder and stand back.
His friend made this sweet little documentary about him, featuring a new project he’s unveiling for a high profile client. Have a look.
Went to Indiana with my friends Tim, Austin and Zunwu to compete in the AMFlat Anarchy in Anderson competition. It was a pretty good day. Rain ruined the end but it was beautiful otherwise.
My run went ok, but compared to my favorite riders who go a lot faster, I look a bit lethargic. I need to work on that. Still I placed 2nd in Vet Class.
I was pretty late to Twitter. Now I enjoy it the most out of all the social networking sites. It was when I got a smart phone that I started looking at social networking beyond just having a Facebook account. For several reasons, being able to check in with your phone makes social networks make more sense. Just on the PC, they seem very wasteful. On the home PC, checking Facebook once in a while is OK for me, but I don’t see the point of living there. Still want to share some things and add new friends occasionally. And I realized it’s nice to be able to set up a business fan page that people can press “Like” on and make you feel somehow desirable.
TweetDeck is Free!
Then I realized that I might want to separate business tweets from personal ones. And some new initiatives I’m working on such as my ReaderWar website made me want to create more separate accounts.
Too much redundancy though. I can’t be logging in and out all the time. Too much room for mistakes. I can’t be wasting that much time on them to say the same things twice and 3 times. Maybe it’s better just to post under one umbrella and let things fall where they may. I thought that until I found TweetDeck. It’s a cross-platform application that let’s you read tweets on your subscription and see in multiple columns your retweets and direct messages and user profiles. It doesn’t let you read facebook postings, but it DOES let you post to both your facebook accounts, AND the business or other ‘fan’ pages you set up for yourself. If you’re an admin or owner of a fan page, you can post JUST to that page only using TweetDeck.
How do you post separately? When you set up multiple account profiles for Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In etc., you can toggle them on or off when writing the tweet. See illustration below.
What you can do with TweetDeck
Post updates to Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Foursquare, MySpace, Google Buzz
View updates from these sites
Post to Facebook Fan pages (that you own or administrate)
Retweet comments from Facebook
Send messages to Facebook users
Look at Twitter user profiles
Automatically shorten URLs (bit.ly is default URL shortener)
Quick Preview shortened URLs just in case
View embedded Youtube video links in tweets
View Facebook photos and through galleries
Global Filter posts or topics you don’t want to see (e.g. Justin Biebr or #fail)
So TweetDeck does a lot, it’s a fantastic app for your PC, Mac, laptop. They also have an iPhone and iPad version.
Other Applications like this
My latest favorite snippet of valuable learning once again comes from a TED Talk. I’ve been watching these for years.
In this talk, to find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner and team from National Geographic study the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. At TEDxTC, he shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.
No surprise, Japan and Italy include one of the blue zones where people in a certain community share a long life. And we find out a little bit of why that is. It’s not all what you might think.
There is a speaker guy named Seth Godin. Everybody likes him. Me too. And I read his site today, about birthdays. He was asking, what should we do on your birthday? Because mine is this coming week, it got me thinking about how I’ve been the past few years. Gifts have been really difficult to give and receive. I don’t take giving lightly in most cases. It’s hard for me, because if it’s going to be a thing I give, I want it to be special because it really will represent something, it acts on my behalf when I’m not there. Certainly I’m not better at receiving, because people ask me what I want for my birthday and I really can’t bring a certain object I want. I really just want to be better than I am. I want to see continuous improvement both slow and steady and through wild bursts and revelation. Projects I want finished, objectives I want conquered. Because it seems that when these things have happened, all the other gifts just flow in. But I don’t just want them done. I want to be engaged throughout the process. Nobody can do that for me, can they?
And yet when I think about that. It sounds like I want to rush through a segment of my life to get it where I expect I should be. As if I’m not quite complete yet. Not good enough. Analyzing that is kind of fun at this moment, because it’s a good reminder of how ridiculous it is. I’m happy that I don’t really believe that. And I’d be sad if others did for themselves.
If someone’s birthday is a day to be celebrated, it’s because of a person’s uniqueness and celebrating it because before that date, they weren’t here. The world before them didn’t enjoy their personality and contributions, their silliness, their ideas, and the things they do for others. At their moment, the pebble struck the water’s surface and the ripples began. The sequence of events in our world without their existence is difficult to imagine. Maybe even lonely.
And because they are here, often so briefly, it is one day a year where we remind them that it has been important that they are here, important to us, many of us. That’s the best thing we can probably do for people. And if we are all too distracted on that day to know or remind ourselves of the reason, that’s ok too. Because even if we realize it on another day, it’s that moment we appreciate somebody for who they are, we are bigger, we have grown.
So how do you celebrate someone’s uniqueness? I wish I could give a perfect answer, but I’ll try. I think the best you can do, is knowing them, you know what they like, what they do, want to be, or accomplish. Do your best to imagine what it takes to get there or to do that. And if you find your own personal way to help them do that, that day, I think it would be a hero’s gift, without a doubt. If you are close to them and already doing that, then maybe just a small surprise is something that’s needed. If you are far away, a card sent or a friendly phone call, can encourage and help and just tell them how much you and the people in their world appreciate them. You can also try to engage in their world a little more too. If you only saw them twice this year, try for five times over next year.
While coming back from our two-week train trip around Japan, Juri and I stopped in Shimokitazawa before heading back to Juri’s parents house. The reason we stopped? Before we left the states, I sent out a cold email to author and instructor Tony Mullen. He wrote an instructional book on my favorite free 3D software Blender. Like a lot of free and open source software, Blender has a large and strong community of users. The strength is based on bettering your skills and sharing knowledge. From this, I just knew that if my email reached Tony, and if he was free, he would likely agree to meet up for lunch. I knew this because I would do the same thing had the roles been reversed.
Tony met us at the south exit of the train station at Shimokitazawa, a very hip little area of Tokyo. Despite the unfamiliarity, I had plenty of things to talk to him about. We walked down the road to a nice cafe and had lunch. I wasn’t really hungry as much as I was excited to talk. We talked about Blender and the community, about our experience with open source software. We talked about our own jobs and about Japan. I was surprised to hear that Tony teaches Blender as the main program in an Introduction to Computers class. This is the same kind of class where one might typically cover MS Word, Excel and email. His college is Tsuda University, a womens college in Japan. So his students, and those who form his after school blender club are all female! I’ve never actually seen a girl do any 3D graphics in my life, let alone college freshman girls in their first intro computer class modeling and animating characters.
While in Japan, I also read an article that Tony is starting another book on Blender, about particles and physics. Sound complicated? It’s basically how to animate things like falling stars or a character’s head of hair. Also handling how objects can crash together or blow apart. 3D is fairly complicated and any book on Blender is a welcome addition since it doesn’t have the nearly the books and products you can find for 3D Max, Maya, or Lightwave.
It felt great to speak and hear english for a couple hours for a change. Tony is a very intelligent guy and quite hilarious. You can tell he’s got the international street smarts. His sharp wit and humor exist on a higher level certainly because of his experience and learning. It was a pleasure to hang out that afternoon. Even Juri got a little shopping done in the district as well. I had hoped to ask Tony if he had any tips for me when I teach my six hour blender summer class in July. I didn’t really get to that point though. No problem, I have his book to look through and he signed my copy of it too. He said mine was the first one he signed.
Thanks Tony! Hope we keep in touch and meet up again!
In an unrelated note, I thought I would share with my readers what my $7.50 Green Tea shake from the cafe looked like. Don’t let the pic fool you. The glass was only about 4 1/2 inches tall. This food size / price issue is the hardest thing for me to get used to in Japan. But I will say the taste made up for it big time. Those are white chocolate chunks sprinkled on top of the ice cream with a small amount of sweet red beans.
1. I don’t introduce myself proudly enough or often enough. I can confidently say I’m a good guy.
2. removed (met that goal!)
3. Thoughout a month, I’m the most powerful and then the weakest person I know. I also cycle through being the most outgoing, fun, sad non-social, helpful, loving and off-the-wall. I think there’s no avoiding the bad spots, there’s no changing them, but I believe we all can change a state’s power and length. And though I read books from the self-help gurus, this one was actually from me.
4. I’m a pretty good video editor and animator, but I’ve become more of a perfectionist over time. Perfectionism can easily cause stress and procrastination. I do myself a huge disservice. If I would pay attention as a viewer more, I would notice that viewers are very forgiving or they just don’t notice the trees for the forest. Sometimes you have to just want to get it done.
5. When you start to wonder if having your own company is possible, just remember all the silly restaurants and shops and now e-stores selling things you’d never buy in a million years and WHO ARE DOING JUST FINE, or who might even be making huge profits!
6. I have an idea and I need some help with it. (thanks to those who have offered to help, but I can’t collaborate on it just yet)
7. Learn the art of revealing just enough, and letting people figure out your point on their own. This makes better stories. People love surprise and a chance for their brain to make the discovery. Don’t force it. Hold things back and see what happens. This is why poets deserve more credit.
8. If you ever take a friend or relative to a vacation spot or tourist attraction that you have already been, shut up and let them explore. It’s one of a few opportunities where you make the situation better by doing nothing at all.
9. A night of surfing webpages will never be as satisfying as learning to make something out of wood or paper.
10. omitted. I already figured it out.
11. The other day I called a company out of nowhere because I liked the way they created a 3D video rendering. I called out of the blue and said “Hi, you don’t know me, but I saw your video. I was wondering how you did special effect X in it. Is somebody there that might tell me?” What do you think happened after that?
12. Right now, it’s already dark outside, the ground is wet, and both are typical reasons why I would normally put off going for a run. As soon as I finish this, I’m going to run in it anyway. So there.
13. Dave Werner seems like an awesome guy. I’d like to work with him one day.
14. There comes a time in maybe everyones life they realize they will never be famous, ultra-important, or rich. This realization will depress some, and will be a huge relief to others. There are also the few that become famous and realize that it wasn’t all they thought it would be. Detachment can bring contentment I think.
15. I feel bad for people who listen to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Whether right or wrong, they are toxic people and should be avoided. And it’s a good thing to be watchful of your government, no matter what.
16. There’s no reason why many people couldn’t choose to cut their workday in half and spend the other half helping others through charity, participating in government to make things better, or to simply to give themselves have more choices the other half of the day. Culture doesn’t understand this. That is why sometimes you have to be different
17. I’m almost 30 years old and I spent yesterday afternoon riding skateboards with the neighbors kids. Our conversations were more meaningful than all of the chats I had at work that day.
18. Join and organization to create a new view. A view is like a path you could choose to go down which would probably lead to a new opportunity. You don’t have to follow these paths or views. But it feels really good to have them, to know that if something doesn’t work out, you COULD take one of them if you wanted. I believe if people had more views in life, you wouldn’t see so much depression and suicide among young people.
19. Try something, even if people are going to laugh at you.
20. My dad smokes cigarettes and I hate it. I’ve hated it forever. I had an idea the other day that I would mail him a letter every week with a freshly printed article about smoking and tips for quitting and handling the difficult addictions. I could have written 2 letters by now and I haven’t sent him anything. Why haven’t I?
21. I think practicing being yourself in a mirror would be a valuable exercise. Or better yet, using a video camera. We all should be able to master our best looks and expressions. That way we can communicate in the way we want to. It’s not just for actors, everyone would benefit from critiquing themselves.
22. My wife will never know how special she is to me.
23. A small part of me hopes this list will lead to something. But the bigger part doesn’t care and has enjoyed it just for the exercise.
24. The past two years have really started to feel interesting, where we the human race may be starting into the future that actually looks futuristic. I just hope we can handle it on all fronts. We need bright people to make sense of it, to steer everyone in the right direction.
25. We can all have a new beginning at any moment.
A book is never the labor of just one person. In my case our Adobe Creative Suite 2 book was written by several extremely talented people with a wide range of experiences. I appreciate their contributions immensely. The book officially released in September 2005. Sadly though, one of my co-authors named Carla Rose passed away in December 2005 just after being apart of the project. She was 62 and had thirty books under her belt. Her website was graphicalcat.com and her passion was photography, scrapbooks, writing and family. I am honored that such a great person would inject their energies into the project. It saddens me I didn’t know about all of this sooner than now.
I have had several friends ask me over the course of my life to film their wedding. This could be because they knew they could get away with it cheaper, or because they simply thought they would get a better finished experience out of it. I just finished my most recent edited wedding video for my friends Jen and Jason. Jen saw my wedding video that I did for my friend Tom years back. I filmed Tom’s wedding because I wanted to, he didn’t ask me. I made a documentary because Tom’s father had recently passed away and because I knew his dad, I wanted to make it a tribute to him too. Plus, I hadn’t seen Tom much in a few years, and I wanted to make it the reason to get back into friendship with him. Tom’s video started my wedding video career.
So this most recent video came to be about 40 minutes long. Of course, the actual unedited wedding ceremony takes up 23 of those minutes, so the real work I did was the segments around rehearsal, preparation, and reception. These were not long segments, but I spent an entire year, minus one week to finish it. This is a classic case of fear of failure procrasitination. I have many reasons for procrastinating mind you, but I can pinpoint exact stages with this particular project. There were may times when I knew I should be working on the video and didn’t do it. I was even reminded significantly by my wife over the year, it wasn’t like I was allowed to forget about it. Of course it didn’t help that I was working on my book during the time when early momentum could have benefited me, but there is really no excuse here, just explanations. To make a video is a big commitment. It involves a huge time commitment from me, because I generally put more thought into a movie than most people I’ve seen. for instance, I always tear up when I’m making my movies. Always tears, no exception. The emotion comes from the music and seeing this creation materialize. Inserting my own small personalized “signature” into the movie gives me a sense of pride equal to the feeling that patriots might get during the Star Spangled Banner. Tears I tell you.
But there is also a whole lot of frustration here too. When you want things to be perfect and you just don’t have it. You kick yourself for being so shaky during the shots, or for not asking better interview questions. There was a great shot there, but you screwed it up you idiot. The elements didn’t come together so you have to skip it and create the emotion elsewhere. The emotion must be there or I can’t continue.
For me, procrastinating on this video came from lack of confidence. This came from the exact place it shouldn’t have came from. My friends believed I would do an awesome job and that’s what gave me that sensation of worry. Not living up to whatever percieved expectation. Thus, the lack of desire to start and make a bunch of mistakes which would eventually lead to a torn friendship. As illogical as it is, procrastination doesn’t need deep thought to take hold. Procrastination thrives on a hidden undercurrents to affect you negatively.
Ultimately what helped me finish this video was two things. There was an annual get-together in which I would see my friends again if I wanted to show up to it. This became the perfect deadline. Of course there were other times when my friends came back in town. These could have served as that deadline too, but the amount of time that passed for today’s event almost made it one year since I filmed this wedding. It turned my thoughts to how ridiculous I had been to wait so long to complete it. How sad was I to wait this long? How bad of a friend was I to let them down like this? The fear of rejection for this reason became conflicted with the fear of failing at the video project. Flip.
The other thing that helped me finish this was direct positive encouragement from my wife. I told her, “look, you know how I am with all my interests and distractions. If I’m going to finish this video, I need your help. I need you to sit down with me and help me do it.” This way, I couldn’t sit there and do something other than the video while she was there. She might not have even looked at the monitor, maybe only reading her book. But that was enough to gather the courage to do this thing. She became very valuable in ongoing encouragement. She was very excited about portions of the video and getting sections done. She had comments to tighten up editing and replacing shots with more appropriate ones. Even a last minute effect, my favorite one of the movie, was her idea.
The thing about all this, is that is procrastination is completely silly. It’s ridiculous to be afraid to start something, to be so underconfident when I’ve demonstrated this skill so many times before.
Today was the event where I saw Jason and Jen. They were extremely happy to get the video. I tried to button my lip, so I wouldn’t build up any unneeded suspense or expectation about the video. Jason reminded me that a year ago, for their honeymoon, he and Jennifer had gone to Ireland. He said he was supposed to have made a video of the vacation, but he hadn’t gotten the project done yet. He didn’t have the inspiration because he didn’t feel the music was carrying it through. It was the best thing I had heard all week. Not that I think two procrastinators were better than one, but it’s nice not to be alone. Thinking about it now, I wonder why Jason didn’t just edit the wedding video himself. Maybe Jen was afraid he wouldn’t get it done in a timely manner. Oops!
There is something bigger here with this wedding video business though. To make a video for your friends, is such a great thing I think, whether you are paid or not. It’s a way to spend time with them and to share with them. It’s also a way to create a memory for them, their family, and for anyone else who might see the video in the future. You can create a memory alternative to their own memory of that time, one that will show them all the other good things that happened behind the scenes that day. There might be a time when one of them is sick, or worse and a video of their life will be comforting or helpful in ways. I guess that’s why I always say yes to these projects. To be honest, I hate pretty much all aspects of video. Annoying tapes, and digitizing. Crappy video editors with limitations and obscure controls. Incompatible codecs and rendering glitches. All these problems have taken away from the fun of video for me. But my friends getting a view of themselves in a light they might not expect is rewarding to me. It’s seeing yourself from the perspective of someone else. Also to know that somebody cares enough for them to create a collage of their life-changing event, is something all friends deserve.