Finishing strong

I had a choir director who would remind us as we approached our concert date, “It doesn’t matter how you start. It matters how you finish.”

While there are some things in life for which this advice isn’t a fit, many things are. If you are prepping for a concert or an event, it’s ok to have a slow start. It’s not ideal, but it’s ok. Because what really matters is how you respond to that slow start. One kind of response to a slow start is to shut down or to spiral with shame. That kind of a response is paralyzing. Another response to a slow start is to start again, to give yourself a second chance, to take it up a notch and hustle to the deadline. That way you can finish strong. And how you finish, in many situations, is what really matters. 

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Snapshot time and continuous time

I’m working on a perpetual lunar calendar and playing with ideas on how to visualize time. While sketching I was reminded of this funny thing about how we visualize time. Digital clocks are about this moment. They tell “snapshot time.” While analog clocks point to a moment but in a larger context, a 12 hour cycle. They tell “continuous time.”

Extending this distinction to perpetual calendars, the ones that hide most of the back plate and show only today’s date through a tiny window are telling snapshot time. It’s Saturday 24 November and that’s what time it is right now.

But the value of using a lunar calendar isn’t in knowing what moon phase we’re in right now. The value is in being aware of where we have been and where we are going. Something like an analog clock is a better visual for this. 

Connect to long time

In Douglas Rushkoff’s book, Present Shock, he describes how our “now now” relationship to technology is driving us crazy. For this problem, he offers this solution: connect to nature. More specifically, he suggests that we connect to natural cycles, such as the lunar cycle, to slow down our nervous now habits. 

Rushkoff cites the work of Dr. Mark Filippi who claims that our brain chemistry is affected by moon phases and if we pay attention to that, we can consciously leverage the state of our brain. 

This is another one of those theories that I don’t buy into 100%. But what I do like about it is that it encourages us to slow down how we connect to time, to pay attention to how we feel and to patterns of how we feel, when. I appreciate the mindfulness of the practice.  

If you’d like to track your state of mind with the moon calendar, check out my little chart here 

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The Long Now Foundation

Custom Moon Jewelry by Elaan Greenfield

Who bridges the gap?

I remember the exact moment when I realized that philosophers aren’t in the business of creating solutions. I was at a sustainability ethics symposium, a gathering of philosopher speakers addressing an audience of designers and engineers.

There was a tension in the room. While the speakers articulated problems really well, the designers and engineers in the room wanted to hear solutions. This was seen in the questions that they asked during Q&A. Questions like, “You say that X is a problem. So what do we do about it?” To which the speakers smiled, shook their heads, and replied, “That’s not our job.”

Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers describe? If it is the job of designers and engineers, are they equipped to do it? The extent of the ethics training they receive in school happens in a single required ethics elective outside of their academic department. The work they do in that course is reading and writing, not their native language of designing and implementing. They rarely have an opportunity to address the problems they read and write about through a project. And even if they do, who is qualified to mentor them?

Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers articulate? Policymakers? Surely the ones who have been to law school have more ethics training than engineers and designers. But do they understand how to create solutions that the communities they serve will adopt? And even if they understood how to create solutions that stick, do they have the freedom to implement such solutions?

Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers articulate?

Safety, Satisfaction, and Connection

I’ve recently recommitted to the habit of listening to one or two chapters of Rick Hansen’s Hardwiring Happiness each morning. In the (audio)book Hansen offers 21 focal points for mindfulness practice. As the title suggests, he argues that if you practice these meditations, you can carve new pathways in your brain so that when you are experiencing a challenging emotion, like fear, for example, your brain will make a connection to a positive emotion that will ease that fear. This theory that you can rewire your brain is called neuroplasticity. While I’m not a 100% believer, I do find this book very helpful.

The focal points are organized into three categories that target three different parts of our brain:

  • SAFETY  – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm (reptilian)
  • SATISFACTION – Subcortex, focused on approaching rewards (mammalian)
  • CONNECTION – Neocortex, focused on attaching to “us” (primate/human)

All 21 focal points listed out below:

SAFETY

  1. PROTECTION
  2. STRENGTH
  3. RELAXATION
  4. REFUGE
  5. SEEING THREATS & RESOURCES CLEARLY
  6. FEELING ALRIGHT RIGHT NOW
  7. PEACE

 

SATISFACTION

  1. PLEASURE
  2. GRATITUDE & GLADNESS
  3. POSITIVE EMOTION
  4. ACCOMPLISHMENT & AGENCY
  5. ENTHUSIASM
  6. FEELING THE FULLNESS OF THIS MOMENT
  7. CONTENTMENT

 

CONNECTION

  1. FEELING CARED ABOUT
  2. FEELING VALUED
  3. COMPASSION & KINDNESS
  4. SELF COMPASSION
  5. FEELING LIKE A GOOD PERSON
  6. COMPASSIONATE ASSERTIVENESS
  7. LOVE

Spreadsheets are boring yet useful

When a project has a lot of moving parts, sitting your butt down and making a spreadsheet can really help. Without one, it’s just too hard to keep track of WHAT needs to be done WHEN and by WHOM.

Your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be digital. If using a paper ledger or graph paper is a better fit for you, then go for it. Just be sure to use a pencil and not a pen because tasks evolve over the life of a project.

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Project Management for Artists

The Consequences Business

I was recently reminded of this quote from designer and educator, Allan Chochinov, from his 1000 Words on design.

“[Designers] think we are in the artifact business, but we are not; we’re in the consequence business.”

What attracted me to the field of design was the scalability and potential impact of that scalability. But as I got deeper into the field of design, it became clear to me that that scalability can also be terrifying. Because when a designer designs, it’s not just a one-up. If that thing goes into production, distribution, and sales, then that thing scales and makes an impact on the environment and culture. We have to be better about thinking that through. Because what we design has consequences.

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Read Chochinov’s 1000 Words here

Inventor Spotlight: Simone Giertz, The Every Day Calendar

Simone Giertz is known for her intentionally shitty robots and her straight man schtick in her demo videos. But this project here, the Every Day Calendar, is a more serious piece. The Everyday Calendar is a touch-sensitive, light up display that you can use to help keep track of a habit that you want to form. Giertz used it for meditation practice.

Check out Giertz’s kickstarter campaign here