Infinity Proclivity

Day 189 Week 28 Q3  Friday July 8, 2022

Well, I do not know about you, but I have a tendency toward infinity. For as long as I can remember I wondered about how big, and how many, and how much and are there limits? Even as early as sitting in the supermarket wagon being wheeled around by my mother as she shopped, I wondered how many different cans were an isle, and how many of them had the same ting in them based on the pictures on the label. This was the early 1950’s, so I guess I am dating myself but there were an awful lot of canned goods on the shelves and I remember wondering how many cans were on a shelf and how many kinds of beans might there be, and how many different brands there were. Now I did not know what bands were, but some o the cans looked different from each other and some looked the same but with different pictures on them. 

These were some of the mysteries that evidently propelled me toward reading. You see I guess I was obsessed with context even though I did not know the word. But there were patterns all over the place and I wanted to know what was going on and I must have driven my mother completely crazy, asking questions all of the time. When eventually going to school because my mother was tired of staying home with her first kid, I discovered different patterns, different surroundings and continued to ask a lot of questions. I guess I was three, and in some kind of preschool because my mother had gotten bored of staying home from her job and having out all day with a kid by then.

This was when I am told, I asked my father if we ever ran out of space in our heads to store information because I had already been reading books and was wondering how many more I could read before I had to begin forgetting the earlier ones. Mom said I was so relieved to learn about the concept of infinity because I thought our brain was like a supermarket shelf that could fit a tot of cans and what happened when you had more cans than could fit on the shelf. I had noticed that the patterns shifted and that not all of the cans on the shelf were the same all of the time.

My father laughed and explained to me the concept of infinity and I was so relieved that I did not have to stop reading.  Of course, this raised a lot more questions but dad was strong at math so I had an early start.  But evidently, my parents were already used to this because my mom told me I had taught myself to read sitting in the supermarket cart comparing labels and pictures on the cans. She found this amusing because she was a librarian and my house was full of books but evidently, since I was still in the supermarket seat it must have been earlier than when I could walk the isles instead of riding.

She said on one of these shopping excursions we passed a table full of boxes of chocolate eclairs, with six to a box and I told her if she bought the box we could have two each. And then she truly understood life was about to get more interesting because I was teaching myself math but I was still in the supermarket child seat.  

The way I learned all of this was when they started teaching us reading in school in the first or second grade, but I had been reading for nearly as long as I could remember and asked my mother, when did I learn to read? and did she teach me how? She laughed and told me I taught myself to read and also basic arithmetic only a little after learning to walk and since I was two she knew she was going to have her work cut out for her.

Loosely Held Plans

This is not a diatribe again planning nor again planners. What it is, is a gentle reminder to not cling tightly to your plans because the larger the project, assignment, mission or endeavor the more likely the plan will need to be significantly adjusted. On the other hand, launching into any major activity without planning is foolhardy. The special forces have a phrase – One Plan is No Plan.  They know from experience that things change so much that it does not make sense to expect change will not occur.

Planning is a lot like rehearsing or practicing and they are all worth doing, as is the step before planning which is Scoping. And Scoping is often neglected which is a topic for another day except to say the plan for a million-dollar project and the plan for a $100 project tremendously differ. So before you make a plan see if you can get your arms around the scope.

But back to why most plans should be lightly held. Because we can not plan for feelings and feelings dominate thinking for most of us. And if you manage to be inflexible enough to be far more rational than feeling you will never be able to lead anything including yourself. The reason is simple, we can not tell what is going to happen in even the near future. Not politically, economically, environmentally, nor any other way.

How many of you expected the global economy to be waylaid by the one-two punch of a global pandemic closely overlapped by an ex-economic superpower making a power grab for a strategic European nation with gigantic energy and food repercussions?  And all happening under the watchful eyes of the world’s most powerful nation’s dysfunctional legislature unable or unwilling to perform the checks and balances necessary to keep the executive branch and courts in line.   

Seriously, and then the desire to blame an administration for the inevitable inflation is in part fed by a ridiculously greedy financial sector. How can any business or even any nation plan for these kinds of things? Of course, it is easy to try to blame someone, anyone, except all of our systems are operating the way we designed them. And all of the people we have put in power are exercising it.

Every musician knows they have played better when practicing alone or in some nonperforming situation. When subjected to the stress of performing most people function at a level below their peak. Sometimes quite significantly below. This is why they practice a lot to make sure they can not drop below a very high level of performance. The residual skill of a professional even when they have not practiced is usually much higher than the amateur on their best day.

This is also true of people who are terrific planners. They are rehearsing for the actual time when the actions have to be performed and they are ready if they have to change and modify their plans because they have already thought through many options.

Call it what you wish, planning, rehearsing and practicing are all forms of preparation that are imperative just do not expect things to go exactly how you anticipated and then you will not be upset when reality happens to you.

You simply can not predict how you and others around you will feel. No one who feels can.

If you want something to cling to, make it behaviors not plans, goals, or outcomes. The only things you can control are internal and then not all of the time either. But you can commit to and practice behaviors that are consistent with who you think you are.  

Take this into account where you are planning! 

Entropy Distraction

Every Creative Outlier I know has more books to read, music to listen to, ideas to explore, projects to complete errands to run, and new works to map out.  We are curious and courageous and not generally pursuing security or celebrity, and we are also sometimes tremendously focused and sometimes wildly scattered. It depends on the context we live within, which is everything. What is happening around you has a tremendous impact. And how could it not? As creators, the universe impinges upon us and we do some processing and re-emanate a response to what has happened to us. 

Try to remember that we also happen to ourselves. We sometimes create the chaos of too many choices and then feel the need to sort things out instead of moving ahead. I know I am guilty of this. Sometimes I explore new tools or processes instead of perfecting works that were originally started. 

Now, I am not saying that all discovery is a distraction, we do need to be aware of and understand and acquire and master new tools. It is just that the world is expanding so rapidly that new tools and perspectives are growing at such a rate that it may no longer be possible to even explore a fraction of what we are noticing.

But I have been recently forced to admit to myself that this fun of exploring new things is sometimes an escape for the perhaps less fun work of perfecting things that are almost but not quite done. How many people have been working on writing the same book or painting or piece of music for years instead of months, or months instead of weeks? How many projects could we push over the edge without starting any new ones?

I call this,  at least as of today, entropy distraction for it occurs to me that I now have enough started works to last more than the remainder of my life.  Now does this mean do not throw good energy after bad or good money or time after bad, or does it mean it is time to simply complete a few things to free up the energy that is tied up, at least in part by Entropy Distraction? 

As some of you know, my particular area of interest is music which is pretty constantly in a state of change in part driven by technology democratization. As in many other fields, Moore’s Law has had a huge impact. The fact that a several-dollar chip can musically outperform a several-million-dollar computer has created a wonderland of toys in my studio, office and every other room.

But will this new gear make my music any better? It is doubtful. Has word processing caused the quality of literature to improve? Has digital recording resulted in more powerfully impactful music? Does a guitar player with a dozen pedals better than one with none?

Again I call this Entropy Distraction for you could literally spend many lifetimes simply exploring the new toys we bought last year and have not had the time to master.

Perhaps the real technology we need now is simply to focus and have discipline, which after all is also the old technology. It does appear that the pandemic has caused many people to do just that and complete the words they have had on the back burner for sometimes an entire lifetime.

And since the pandemic does not seem to be ending there is still the to creatively cash in on it. Reducing the randomness and chaos in life evidently needs to be an ongoing exercise that is practiced just as rigorously as any other skill we are working to perfect. 

And not taking the time to perfect whatever we are working on, in general, produces results that do not satisfy us but then again do not be paralyzed by perfectionism either. This is a banking act and I would like to suggest that instead of constantly having to rebalance that perhaps the better conscious effort to engage in is Integration not Balancing. Integration sound more permanent to me than balancing which seems to suggest we are always off balance and have to rebalance frequently.

What if we became integrated and reduced entry as it cropped up. Kind of like doing your dishes after every meal instead of when you run out of clean ones, or laundry when you run out of clean clothing.   What if you reduced your chaos after making it instead of eating until it was so intolerable that there was no choice.

Yes, it is distraction reduction time. One definition I heard of being organized, is you could locate anything in your life within five minutes, It sometimes takes me five hours instead. I have even been known to acquire the item more than once because I could not find the prior acquired one.

Reducing entropy reduces distraction, which frees up creative energy to create a new mess on the way to completion.  

Entropy is clearly worth managing and one way is the completion of what you have already started assuming you still think the effort is worth it.

Do it now!

Private Out Loud Creativity Storm 

Hmm, how can you be private and also out loud? And what is a creativity storm? And what do they have to do with each other?

First, let’s remember that we are intentionally speaking to creative outliers here. And for us, the idea of a creativity storm, I suspect is one most of us are not strangers to. We sometimes have so many ideas at the same that it can be overwhelming but even if it is in a good way and welcome, Creativity Storms can be problematic, for there is all of this good stuff we want to capture, but it is incoming way too fast. 

This is where the notion of journaling comes in as part of a morning practice. If some of you are like me, you may wake up with way too many ideas to be able to process, never mind to make use of. Sometimes this can occur in the middle of the night, inconvenient unless you live alone. A journal is a place where you can be “Private Out Loud”. You can stem the flow of too many ideas by talking to yourself in a journal, privately but still out loud to yourself. Some bits and pieces, and even large ones may end up being public. This is more about having a conversation with yourself both to help sort out the too many ideas and to stem the flow so you can get back to sleep if you want to. Or, to get on with your day without being in the middle of an immobilizing Creativity Storm.

Now, I do not know about the rest of you, but I can not type nearly as fast as I can think. I also can not speak as quickly as I can think either. When in public, this can get you in trouble, because you can speak more quickly than you are evaluating and filtering which can create a mess. Maybe some of you have been there?  Hey, as creative folks sometimes the idea flow is faster than the word flow, and sometimes the word flow can get out of control. These are all aspects of Creativity Storms and good reasons to journal as a regular practice to calm down enough to be civil and intentional. If not, you run the risk of burying those around you with too many ideas. 

Some well-adjusted creative people are well self-managed and prevent themselves from over-communicating or under-communicating. Congratulations, if you are well balanced enough to manage your larger than Bell Curve normal emotional dynamic range.

Essentially, we are proposing storytelling as a therapeutic tool. We all tell ourselves stories. Our journals are examples of private out loud storytelling.  We do know that reality is of greater dimension and velocity than the stories we tell ourselves. We experience life faster than we can type and faster than we can speak. Emotions are way faster than logic! This is why we had to invent storytelling in the first place. 

When a lot of external events impinge upon us, some read, watch or listen to the news, whereas others condense the incoming, to a story they tell. Professionals tend to say they are covering a “fast-breaking” story which allows everyone to pretend that this story is the “truth”. Well, maybe not so much?

When internal events are proceeding at greater velocity and complexity than we can rationally process, there is no channel to tune into to “get the story”. This is where journaling comes in. Whether you find yourself in an emotional storm precipitated by external (the news or others in your life) or internal events (as in a creativity storm), the same simple powerful process can be fantastically effective. Tell a story to yourself – privately and out loud. This does not have to be spoken or sonic. It can be a picture, a diagram, text, longhand or spoken, sung or danced and it can be very helpful to tell the story at least to yourself first.

Telling the story to yourself in general precedes telling the story to others. If you are a creative outlier trying to make a living monetizing your creativity or an innovator getting insights adopted, you are going to have to tell a story. No Story = No Stakeholders! Often you can not make things happen completely by yourself.

So, whether you have one person-size dream or world-changing large-team dreams, or just have to cope with a Creativity Storm, you still need to begin with the story. That story will have to be expressed in a way that is Private Out Loud.