Context, important for everyone, is even more important for creative outliers.

Because for us, it can be a more fluid and dynamic hard to cope with moving target.

A nicety of our shared online existence is we can look up context in six dictionaries to nail it down.  Here is what I found.

1) The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

2) The parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.

3) The interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.

4) The parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.

5) The set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

6) The situation within which something exists or happens, and that can help explain it.

Fortunately, they all say approximately the same thing.

To my mind, they are all variations on the first definition.

And one dictionary considers this word to be elementary.

I take issue with this because context is relativistic, nonlinear and time-varying. 

It is not the same for everyone.

It is not the same even for any of us all of the time.

Are you the same person at 6 AM Sunday morning and 6 PM Tuesday night?

Before or after sleeping, eating, lovemaking, making a breakthrough, or hitting an obstacle?

Other descriptors of context include point of view, reference frame and perspective, which do hint at the non-elementary nature of context.  

Why raise this issue at all? Because creative outliers create within some context which can vary greatly, at times from unconscious to conscious. When you speak, how much do you know about the intended listener?  How about when you write? Or design a website or a garden or a party? Does one size fit all? Hardly.

Why does this matter to a creative outlier attempting to become an adopted innovator? Well, if you would like your insights to be adopted, how you manifest them has a terrific impact. As a creative outlier, you have many choices about how to emanate your understandings and hopefully, you are consciously guided by context.

For example, are you a fan of PowerPoint to express yourself? I used to make glorious slide decks with what I thought were cool artistic transitions. And it turned out that only people like me agreed with that assessment, yet much of the time, we are addressing people not like us.

I bet some of you have also painfully learned some of these types of lessons when pitching ideas to someone who began interrupting almost as soon as you began. Some of the time, they could be just rude, and others of the time, you have completely misunderstood their context.  It is generally a good idea to find out, preferably prior to the meeting. Sometimes, even often, you can not anticipate the context. This is why most pitches fail.

So what can you do about context?  Do not take it for granted. Are you extremely clear about what your point of view or reference frame is and how different it may be from those you want and need to interact with? 

I may be an oddball, but I am amazed about how terrible many user interfaces are.  I guess they were not designed for someone like me. Or, how often do surveys ask you the questions you want to answer? In this increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, it feels to me like it is becoming increasingly difficult to develop consensus.

This is a good opportunity for us creative outliers to be very conscious and very adaptive, not unconscious and reactive. You may have thought you understood your neighbors growing up, but have they changed? How about your bosses and employees and clients and friends? It is natural to project your context upon others, but not necessarily accurate. What if the others are not conscious of their context?

The good news is as creative outliers, we have available more degrees of freedom in how we express ourselves than the middle of the bell curve people. It is a good time to be increasingly aware of context and what to do about it. It can not always be managed. Sometimes we need to manage ourselves to get along with it.

At some level, context is everything. Respect it greatly.   

Unconscious Context Shifting

Day 192 Week 29 Q3  Monday July 11, 2022

Creative Outliers – is it just me or have you noticed context is decreasing  all of the time. Websites, apps, automobiles, computers and phones all get updated all of the time.  And sometimes they seem worse to me but since the old versions are mostly gone and hard to find, it can be difficult to tell.

When most of the world replaced vinyl records with CD’s and we were told they were so much better, this was true in some ways, but album liner notes, graphics and photographs told you so much more about music, musicians and the circumstances that gave rise to them.

To my mind this was a great loss, but the hassles of dealing with scratchable fragile disks outweighed the loss of context, and dare I say it quality at least in the short term. Evidently the new definition of quality has become convenience but more on that in elsewhere and now right now.

As it is easier to tell the difference between things when you can actually compare them, there are many forces at work actively preventing us from comparisons. Have you ever tried to roll back to a previous version of an operating system or an app? It can be done but it takes a lot of effort. The same may be true of mainstream messaging where reality appears to have become a popularity contest. The more times something is said the more it appears to be true. Not to be a party pooper but there are such things as the scientific method, empirical evidence and fact based decision making, where repeatability not simply repeating assertions, is the only way to validate or invalidate a hypothesis. Which by the way is the most direct way to learn, develop and grow. Also remember what was true can be disproven by evidence and facts but not by simply asserting unproven alternatives. 

Back to context, and its tendency to unconsciously shift. It is not only the updated user interfaces we encounter that are sometimes of questionable value. Another example is automobiles, which admittedly matter less to current generations than in the past. Although it is true that cars seem to run longer and with less attention, yes they are more convenient. But are they more fun to drive? I a not talking about speed and acceleration, I am talking about how do they feel?

But the most important context of all is our internal reference frame. How do you feel now compared to how you felt before?  Richer, poorer, stronger, weaker, healthier,. or having less existential angst and therefore feeling better about life in general.

What is the context of life and how does this connect a story because the stories that we tell us are all about context not just about details we may change the context and therefore the details sometimes change to follow suit to achieve consistency.

Information is worth much more than data in that information generally has units pounds degrees speed where is data is just a pile of numbers.  What information has more than data is context. Adding even more context and you can get from information to knowledge.  For example 20° doesn’t tell you that much.  Is it 20°F or celsius previously known as centigrade. And are we talking about a temperature in Finland or Bolivia and at what time of year?  All of these are it in context.  In some ways context is everything because it provides a framework for information.  Eventually when you have enough context you might actually have some knowledge which certainly is more valuable than information or data.    And the very best way to deliver knowledge is through a story which contains a framework or context as well as information and data to fit within that contextual framework.  And stories contain something more than context and information and data they contain an experiential component which helps to make everything more emotionally relevant and therefore more memorable and therefore more useful.

Cranking up the contacts to a higher level when an individual has multiple knowledges from experience in multiple fields they sometimes achieve a state where they are said to have wisdom which is the ability to know what to do even in situations that you have not experienced.  Certainly wisdom has even more context and in some ways it even transcends particular contexts because it is a meta-level set of contexts.

This is where journaling can help.  You can write down what’s happening and how it’s connected to what is around it which is the context and as it shifts and perceptions change you can go back and look at the prior framework and then become more conscious of the context shifts.

We humans want it all. Radio did not bump off newspapers and newspapers did not bump off people talking to each other and television did not pump off radio and the Internet has not bumped off television.  We actually want all of these things and they all have value because they will provide context and different contexts.

Sometimes unconsciously shifted contexts cause discontinuities in our perception of what is going on and this can be very annoying. In fact it could be worse than annoying it can be dangerous because conflict often occurs when people are zoomed too far in to see the big picture. if they were to consciously shift their context or their framework to a larger one, than what appears to be an inevitable conflict often vanishes completely.

These relationships between storytelling and context, and conscious versus unconscious shift of framework, have to be managed to avoid blindsiding others and even blindsiding yourself.

Take notes try to summarize refer back to your journals and try to be aware of context because if you permitted to unconsciously shift you may find yourself unable to engage in civil discourse even within yourself.

As humanity is transcending geographic proximity thinking in only a regional manner doesn’t cut it anymore.  This is living in a much larger world than our parents did who live in a larger world than their parents did.  One question that comes to mind is the world that we are living in too large for us to process?

For people who live within the bell curve it seems so because that is a good reason to give away personal power to authoritarian leaders.  And if a person tries to outsource responsibility for understanding what’s going on and says I trust this strong person to know what the problem is and what to do about it, the outcomes can only be exploitation and blame.  I and he’s authoritarian figures have to blame because they cannot take responsibility for not knowing what to do which would invalidate the reason for being in power so they do not encourage it to be curious and ask questions a question authority.

Creative outliers do you have a tendency to be curious and ask questions and they don’t always have an easy relationship with Authority precisely because they’re not very good at being blind followers and that’s what authority wants blind following.

Be aware of the context that surround you and how it is shifting.  Be aware of the context within you and how it is shifting.  At various points of time in your life you will have more or less love, more or less money, more or less power, more or less health, and more or less vitality.  Try not to have less context try to have more this does not mean necessarily bludgeoning yourself with the evening news every day this means understanding what is going on in the world by asking enough questions.  And the alternative is authoritarianism which is quite resistant to innovation creativity and any kind of progress.

Yes we are going to have to help take care of each other if humanity is to survive and that is the broadest context of all. For in order for one person to win some other person has to lose that breeds a scarcity mentality instead of an abundance frame of mind or context if you will.

If you want to preserve the right to be creative in the future you had better vote today because authoritarians will not like you exercising your right to be creative in the future as it threatens them.  They very much would prefer unconscious context shifting and it does appear to be going on in the world right now.

Vote to preserve your right as a creative individual, do not give away your power to authoritarian regimes. Own and take responsibility for your context.  And yes you can create your own context as long as you preserve the freedom to be permitted to create.

Showtime Convergence 

Day 191 Week 29 Q3  Sunday July 10, 2022

Engineers used to have trade shows when their products had to be introduced. Some still do but many now have virtual product introductions . And performers still have a curtain going up which is most certainly an unambiguous deadline to be ready. And politicians have elections. And mothers give birth.  SO the show goes on and there are deadlines that just can not be avoided and they are really helpful because no one is ever thinking they are ready to be a parent, perform a piece or ship a product. Well I guess politicians may always be ready to give a speech so three out of four is not bad. 

Seriously as an involuntary innovator creative outlier I can find more listing options to try to pack in st the last minute in every situation. Like oh there is some space in my suitcase and I do not need to leave for the airport for twenty minutes….

Well you get the message, where would we be without deadlines? Well, we would not be finished with much. So I am grateful for unambiguous external deadlines like the one I am facing right now. I have to perform some live music at an event today and am rapidly running out of time to be ready. Oh sure there is still gear to pack and driving to the event and there is the locating of some of this gear still not done, and then there is what to play and which instruments to play it on and to sing or not, as there are so many options.  And unfortunately having been doing this literally for decades one would think it would all be routine by now. But it most certainly is not because not only do I have too many options and too many ideas but I can not stop creating more options and considering more combinations.

I am embarrassed to admit that I have many different sound systems, many different guitars, basses and keyboards, many different microphones, many different styles of music, many different ways to figure things and worst of all I am in charge so I have carte blanch to spin around forever with no eternal force of convergence.

This is why many creative outliers have agents, managers, and even sometimes perish the thought bosses. We all have the problem and the gift of too many ideas. I even wrote a song about its few weeks ago which was performed in Manhattan at reading at Juilliard. 

We all seem to want more creative freedom and some of us even do get it. But then we have to become our own force of convergence and this can be much harder than running a company or leading a team.

There is the special case where you are the company and you are the team and you have managed to engineer things so there are no or few external constraints whatsoever. And this is where I find my self this morning which is why I just took the time to write these words to eliminate the remaining degrees of freedom and stop creating options for I am now actually completely out of time.

Gotta Go and pack and leave.

Learning Curve Addiction

Day 190 Week 28  Q3 Saturday, July 9, 2022


Okay, I admit it, I am addicted to the steep initial part of the learning curve when you are drinking from a water hose to learn how to use an app with a several hundred-page manual. It is the same sensation some of us got when we discovered we could ride a bike a lot faster down a hill than pedal up it. Both have the same downsides and some of us have the scars to prove it. Yes, you can certainly get into trouble intellectually besides physically when going too fast. But then again, there is this adrenaline rush from going really fast.

It seems that creative outliers love to learn. We are extremely curious and we are also extremely good at absorbing information. People who are great at swimming like to swim a lot.  They are comfortable in deep water and know how to handle themselves so they dive in without having to think too much about it. Creative outliers have this same facility about investigating whatever catches their fancy. We dive in and just start processing.

I bet some of you are shaking your heads, thinking that there is a potential problem. The problem is, that it can be far more fun to investigate and explore things that you do not know about than taking the less exciting path to complete projects already begun. Of course, we rarely get paid for exploring nearly as much as the compensation associated with finishing. Some people do get paid just for trying not for finishing but they are called bureaucrats and in general, they are not creative outliers, however, they are sometimes lapsed creative outliers, who got tired of not being able to monetize their learning curve exploits. 

This is why learning curve addiction is as problematic as other kinds of addiction to the compulsive among us. Wait you say you are not compulsive? You are well managed and carefully balance your creative impulses with meeting expected deadlines punctually or even in advance of deadlines. Are you certain you are a creative outlier? Well, you may be and you also may be a CEO methodically working your way toward a profitable exit. It happens.

For the non-CEOs among us still working to balance our creative urges against our other responsibilities, I am simply raising the issue that being an addict or even a borderline addict can be dangerous but none of you know anything about that right? Even if you never had a drink, smoked a cigarette or had a fling, there is still danger in addiction and for me, learning curves are my nemesis. It can be time to go to bed to be ready for tomorrow by having a reasonable night’s sleep, and I can even tell my wife “be right there”. But that new toy or app or book or something else, not totally known or understood is right there beckoning me to take a peak. And before I know it several hours have gone by. At least now it is only several hours, but when in my twenties it could be several days.  

So, what to do? I am sure being creative outliers you have many coping strategies. I know I do. But then again as an involuntary innovator, I find ways to try to “improve upon” these strategies and somehow find myself in cahoots with my other self the learning curve addict.  In fact, sometimes the tangent is new coping mechanisms.

And by the way, cold turkey does not work very well either. Have you ever told yourself to not have any new ideas until you completed processing the old ones? Or do not try this new tool until you complete the semester or the year or the project.

Well, I am reporting from the other side. I acquired several kinds of interesting new tech toys and tools early in the pandemic and told myself I could not justify spending time with them until I go things under control. And much to my amazement it worked. Well, I did have to hide them deep in a closet and put things in front of the door. In my enthusiasm, I also told myself to not write any new music unit I perfected and recorded the works in progress and also to not start writing any new articles or books or anything unit I published the already started ones. 

Okay so during the last 18 months all sorts of progress was made, but I have run out of delayed gratification discipline and cracked upon the door once again to new stuff and my learning curve addiction 

Has taken control for the last few days and I can say without reservation that it is great to indulge.

No, I am not intending to become a full-blown learning curve addict and three days of binging on learning instead of the news did a great deal to make me feel good about the world or air least feel better.

So, am I telling anyone to do anything here at all? No. I am simply acknowledging I have an addiction and no I do not want a twelve-step program to cure it, because I think this is where tomorrow comes from. People who are so compulsive about something, that they have to do it.

And in addition, to be feeling better, which is not a bad reason to do something that essentially does no harm to anyone else, I have another new pile of unfinished things to master and no I do not feel guilty. I am enjoying it too much. In fact, I am enjoying it even more than the occasional lapse into ice cream or pasta or other things that take longer to correct than learning.

And the crazy you, the who loves learning, well this is also a very attractive you as well. People notice and they like it, which is after all how some of us have founded companies, departments and projects.

Does learning have to be managed? Sure. But smothered? Never. 

This is one addiction that benefits us all as long as it is managed to some extent.  My recommendation to myself is to reserve some time every day to reward myself by plunging in and then coming back out. Will all of these projects get completed in my lifetime? It is doubtful but I am mo longer going to punish myself for being a learning curve addict.

And excuse me, I need to get back to understanding what my new tech can really do.