Human Directivity

Directivity is the property of being directional. It can be a measure of radiation and of sensitivity. For example, an omnidirectional sound source or broadcast antenna would radiate equally in all directions. Or conversely, a microphone or radio receiver can be extraordinarily directional and only sense inputs from a narrow direction. This fundamental parameter in physic could also be applied to people.

Some people are only sensitive to a very narrow set of stimuli and others to everything around them. Some also broadcast indiscriminately, and others narrowcast precise information to a very few people. In fact, some bombastic people only emit and do not receive at all. And other timid, introverted individuals barely utter a peep.

It is interesting to me a search for the word Directivity yields a large number of scientific definitions, discussions, articles and even derivative terms such as Directivity Factor and Directivity Index. It appears physicists are more interested in the spatial distribution of energy and directional sensitivity, not to mention just how sensitive receivers are or how efficient radiators are.

The communication industry has other words for targeting advertising or trolling for feedback, so the concept is not alien nor is it strictly quantitative. I am sure there are statistics applied to all manner of communication inputs and outputs covering a multitude of variables of interest such as market size and receptivity.

I am thinking of a different application of the same word to psychology and philosophy where curiously, I have not so far seen it show up although I can imagine great value in attempting to characterize the directionality of our feelings and thoughts. Perhaps this territory seems to be too dangerous to wander in to, or maybe not potentially fruitful enough but for me personally, I sometimes feel like a speaker or a microphone or an antenna and am very aware of how energy can be focused or squandered to archive specific targeted goals or diffuse outcomes.

As this is a brand new thought less than an hour old, it may seem premature to attempt to write or post anything, but for some reason, I feel compelled to raise the issue. Perhaps to protect me from the deluge of inputs into my system from within and from without? Or maybe alternatively to help to prioritize and focus in a more beam-like manner my own personal energetic emissions and application of energy.

There seems to be an infinite number of concepts, paths, and ramifications to explore human directivity instead of the directivity of nonliving physical entities. But for today I am satisfied to raise the possibility of the topic merely.

Cal, Ramp, and Play

At the beginning of every day, it is possible to perform a set of activities to get ready for the day. This morning practice can become somewhat automatic, especially for people who follow some sort of routine, sleeping in the same bed every night and going to the same job every morning at the same time. Not everyone is this well defined. Creators and innovators sometimes radically change the way they spend their time from day to day, in part because they may have the freedom to do so and in part because it is their natural proclivity to do so.

This extreme desire for degrees of freedom manifest by many creative people can get in the way of productivity which has caused some highly prolific creators and innovators to invent routines of behaviors they would like to automate or habituate. In some circles, this may be called a Morning Practice and in others a Habit Loop. Indeed, there are many more possible names, but the principle is the same.

If one can identify an excellent behavior, it is worth making it somewhat automatic to increase the likelihood of it occurring by reducing the overhead associated with performing the said behavior to as little as possible. For some lucky souls, their daily work is so enjoyable as to feel like play. In fact, the primary activities of musicians and athletes they are paid to perform are called play, not work. And the “work” they do on the way to “playing” is often called “warming up.” They have to get in the right zone, sometimes called flow, to function at the highest levels. I call this wearing up period ramping and regard it as an on-ramp to the main activities I need to dedicate the majority of the day to. Since I think about many different topics all of the time, I have found it to be useful to get in the zone of the activities I need to be performing at the current point in life where I find myself.

In my case, I ramp up in three domains, the physical, musical and keynoting areas. I swim some laps to get my body ready to be physical, I write some music to stay prepared to go further in that primary domain of composing and orchestrating. I also work a bit on activities related to my keynoting which generally include writing about some insight and posting to my blog, after proofreading and light editing. I try to gets all of this done before my workday begins at 9 or 10. My ramping is specific to the domain I primarily operate within, being a concertizing keynoter, someone who combines music and public speaking. These both require physical strength and energy hence the morning laps in the pool, and if that is not possible, I jump on a rowing machine called an Erg to do the equivalent warmup. Therefore to Play, I first Ramp on weekdays.

Additionally, there is something else I do before Ramping and Playing, which I call Calibrating or Cal for short. The calibration is a more generalized activity to get ready for life, not specifically focused on being a concertizing keynoter. I call this activity getting into SOR or a state of readiness. As my brain functions in three very different modalities, I exercise them all every morning not just during the “Play Week.” The three modes are characterized by Notes, Words, and Diagrams and they use entirely different parts of the brain (or at least of my mind).

The Notes are dealt with by something I call Morning Music which consists of playing some instrument or singing for long enough to connect my unconscious, waking emotional state to be ready to communicate more intellectually. This can take as little as five or as long as 90 minutes depending upon my psychological turbulence and how tired I may be from inadequate rest. Since this feels really terrific, I sometimes do it for a lot longer than necessary as it part of my identity too play music. You might wonder what the difference between this and the ramping music and the more focused playing music later in the day is. The main differentiator is this Morning Music is not about anything other than changing my psychological state. It is not about composing, preparing for a concert, recording, editing, mastering or posting. It is merely about having a special relationship with sound where I can create and modify a universe I want to live in. It is not work, it is not warming up. It is merely being and in some ways my most natural function, the thing I was born to do. All I can say is it works better for me than meditating, praying, eating, exercise, nature and yes even sex or lovemaking. It is a primary way for me to relate to the universe and make myself whole by directly tactually managing acoustical energy in a conceptually abstract manner at a very high level. It is private, personal and can be at times a source of musical ideas as well. And I have been productively doing it for years.

The second part utilizing Words which are more literal and linear than music is an exercise I call Jam Journaling desired to get me into a state of flow, that is not as purely psychological and emotional as the Notes within the Morning Music but is slightly more cerebral and intellectual. A more bounded exercise this activity is measured regarding total words, total minutes and words per minute which indicate flow state.

The third part I call modified KanBan Diagramming is a mechanism I employ to perform what I call Just-In-Time Scoping and Planning. Diagramming reveals structural and temporal dependencies are permitting one to refine just what is going to do and what order they intend to do it in. This diagramming uses yet another part of the brain which differs from the musical and the verbal. It adds the perspective of zooming out to observe much at the same time, which belong to a set of tools and practices, I refer to as Complexity Processing.

This triple calibration or TriCal as I call it is a compelling way to get emotionally, intellectually and logistically centered in relatively not very much time. It also seems to work no matter what my state of mind or body and can generally be completed within under an hour although occasionally has lasted as long as two or three hours if there was both the need and the time as on the weekend.

This combination of TriCal, TriRamp, and TriPlay make for an incredibly powerful way for me to get things done, and to be calm, centered and prioritized at the same time. The short phrase Cal, Ramp and Play also serves to remind me that my life work is really Play, that to Play you can get warmed up moving through an on-Ramp, and that to be ready to Ramp it is a good idea first to be Calibrated.


3 Essentialism Questions

One of the more recent books on the topic was written by Greg McKeown and he raises three questions worth passing along as very useful especially to innovators. I am paraphrasing not quoting here but it should be pretty close.  Here are Greg’s three questions that are part of his process.

What do you have a passion for?  What do you have a talent for?   What will make a difference?

Innovators notice many things, are curious about many of them, and come up with large numbers of ideas all of which can make for a noisy existence cluttered by an excess of focal points, vantage points, and perspectives. This is why we helicopter around so much, as Malcolm an early SVII member puts it. Just because we can helicopter around, does not necessarily mean that we should, even though it is fun, it is not always productive, which is where the three questions mentioned above seem to be useful. Over time we may have the passion for a relatively large number of topics or fields but integrate over a long time constant to see what rises above the rest. 

I have been passionate about trying to understand why sound in general and music, in particular, have such a profound upon many people, including me. This led to decades of study and eventually professional work in the areas of acoustics, signal processing, psychophysics, music theory, composition, production, reproduction, and most recently orchestration. My life has been littered with science, engineering and music books, papers and instruments. I still do not have a single conclusive answer but do have many ideas about the topic and am still learning several degrees and careers later.

Now the second question do I have a talent for it? This is a little more complicated because according to who? But perhaps writing, performing and recording and releasing a number of musical pieces counts in some way even if they have not and may never change the world. And contributing technologically to digital pianos and computer sound systems may also qualify as I did earn a living doing these at Apple, Bose and other places. 

The third question having to do with making a difference or having some sort of impact is also somewhat subjective but having publicly performed over a thousand times and having influenced products used by millions implies some sort of traction.  Now here is the interesting part, fifty years after heading down this path of music and technology I am still reading, thinking and listening about both, still performing and still attempting to harness or invent technology to lower the overhead for musical creative expression.

In several decades one does not likely have a single career and I am no exception. Having worked in industry, government, and education, I am still passionate about the same topics, and still, wonder if I have enough talent or impact. I do not need to have answers or impact or fame or fortune form these activities – I still like them and still do them and they still function as priorities.  I had not thought to qualify these as organizing priorities, in a long time until beginning to listen to Greg McKeown’s book on Essentialism.

So thanks, Greg – you reminded me to ask important questions which help me to be clear about my priorities, reduce the noise, and focus my energy.

Essentialism Time

Just about everyone has more to do and more to think about then there is any hope of addressing.  Prioritization, essentialism, deep dive, focus and emphasis are just some of the many terms people use to refer to the need to filter much out of their life, in order to get what matters, and is important done. There continue to be many books written about intention, discipline and how to be in the world, and I have no desire to add to this literature.

What I do have a desire to bring up, is the time-varying nature of one’s ability to perform any of the above, as we are not primarily logical and the way we feel continues for most of us to dominate the way we think. In other words just because we think we know what to do and what our priorities are, does not mean we are able to perform upon demand.

Ah, I hear some of you saying that’s why god invented deadlines. To some extent, this is a terrific way to focus, but usually an external way.  The internal should really rule over the external as much as possible if we are to be masters of our own destiny.  There are however empirically certain times that are significantly better than others, to address one’s essential nature and focus on what matter most (which are also time-varying).  The way to determine these times is usually by trial and error, for humans are not primarily logical. 

Nevertheless, there are times that occasionally reveal themselves, which are excellent opportunities, to take on things we have been avoiding, and which we know need to be done. Sometimes, it has simply not yet been possible to psychologically address something, like cleaning up inherited messes from deceased family members, until enough time has passed to decrease one’s sensitivity to the tasks. 

Sometimes we can become engaged in essential activities, that are so close to our hearts as to free up enough energy to address other avoided tasks. I call this Essentialism Time. I am not going to define essentialism as there is already plenty to read on the web, and it is adequately self-explanatory.

The point I am raising here, is when one is on their essential path, the stunning amount of previously locked up energy, which can be released can not only benefit the primary essential task, but also literally “float your boat” and make it easier to do anything and everything, in your life including avoided tasks you were not yet ready to address. In this exciting state, vitality is increased, releasing energy which can be applied to all manner of things. Unfortunately, this can dissipate it, and lead you back to where you started overwhelmed.

On the other hand, if you can remain conscious of this liberated essentialism energy, by being aware that you are operating in essentialism time, there can be great gains in productivity, regarding every aspect of your life. 

At the moment this seems true, teaching a great lesson.  One had best be on their essential path, for otherwise, everything in life is harder than it needs to be.