Friday, November 15, 2013

Personal Evaluation - Mapping My Perspective on Myself

I would like to share a note about perspective and focus with regards to personal evaluation.  Given the dynamic nature of my experiences, my needs and my areas of expertise, personal evaluation can be a complex topic to tackle.  This complexity is compounded when I counterpoint my evaluation of myself against my evaluation of another individual.  Even more complexity is added when I realized that my evaluations are heavily colored by my perspective, assumptions, and particular focus. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Chaotic Mind - Building Harmonies from Cacophony

drawing by Hiking Artist
My experiences today helped lay bare for me the challenges I face wrestling with my own mind.  As I have spent the last two years curating my interests, my brain has lit up in ever more powerful and chaotic ways.  I find it time to face this multitude of thoughts and interests, and to lay out for myself tools I can use to harmonize my mind.

I liken this experience of a child who first discovers each of the multitudes of instruments in an orchestra.  I find myself enamored with what each instrument can do individually, still in that early stage of loudly banging, plucking, and blowing in order to see of what these new tools are capable.  The more I crash around the stage of my mind, the more interesting things I learn.  As of yet, however, I have not built up the skill, precision, or discipline to have all of the instruments play together in harmony.

The challenge on which I embark now is to find the tools, and build the rigor which will allow me to align the electrified instruments of my passions, and have them play in harmony, each one building and compounding on the other.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Identifying Standards - Defense Against the Fog

Useful Standards Stand Alone Solid and Unchanging

Standard rule how I think about myself and others.  Thoughts such as, "I really should do X." or "I really should not say Y." are directive ideas built on standards of behavior.  With others, thoughts such as, "She should have had more empathy." or "He eats really loudly." are evaluations based on standards.  Standards are so powerful in our minds that they deserve careful consideration.

An ill defined or even contradictory standard can lead us to mental anguish, frustration, fear, and anger.  A false standard can also encourage us to to be blind to destructive and manipulative influences in our lives.  In the worst case a false standard can result in our own self abuse from which we are very unlikely to escape.  

In this post I look into what standards are, why they hold so much power, how they can be used against you, and how to immunize yourself against their misuse.

Unifying Mind and Body, Past & Present

A long walk and a long talk join mind and body in a common adventure.
I dare to walk the road with my mind and body engaged.

I absolutely love thinking.  I love conversing.  I love being outside.  I have only recently made an effort to combine these loves.  I find an intriguing strength in taking a long walk while also recording myself talking about my thoughts.  In thinking, my mind can go on an adventure through the past, present, and future.  In talking, my mind and body work together to attempt to put my thoughts into a digestible sensible format.  In walking, my body gets to go on its own adventure through spaces, sights, sounds, and feelings.

While the mind can wander through time and space, the body is forever trapped in the here and now.  The unification of these acts in one purposeful action for an extended period brings me much peace.  I have a feeling of being integrated.  A feeling of cohesive application of all my being into one task.  There is much to be read on living in the now, or being mindful of the past.  I would like to read about how I can bring the past present and future into one unified experience.  It seems to be in reach.

I am starting to wonder how I can arrange my life to best leverage these loves and my resulting passions to create the most good in the world.  I think another walk is in order.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Complexity of Connecting

Struggling to connect...
I often find myself struggling to connect with other individuals.  I find this personal challenge not only appears in conflicts at work and home, but also manifests in friendly interactions.  This often undermines both team cooperation and personal intimacy with loved ones.  Connections develop trust and respect which in turn support cooperation and understanding.  I am looking at my own past ability to build connections and learning new ideas to become more effective.

I am learning the power of turning my attention inward.  The more effort I put into exploring the complexity of myself, the more I see similar complexity in others.  This illumination of the complexity of others inspires me to throw off my assumptions and generate curiosity.   I am finding this curiosity for others’ depth underpins my successes in empathetic connection.  As a result, my peers tell me I am becoming a softer, gentler and more reliable ally at both work and home.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thankful for Kind Criticism

I am exhausted.  I just spent large portions of my weekend tearing apart a recent blog post, rewriting it from the ground up.

I had the fortune of receiving a detailed critical analysis of one of my blog posts.  I had submitted the post to a review committee for possible inclusion in a hard copy publication. The reviewer honored me by identifying my potential and respecting me enough to hit me with brutal honesty about the issues with my writing.

Reading the comments, I was struck with fear and anxiety.  I felt so exposed having my work torn apart and examined on a cold slab.  At the same time, I could not look away.  This reviewer identified deep patterns of grammar, structure, and attitude to which I was blind up until this point.  The attitude comment hit me the hardest.

I expend a large effort extolling the virtues of empathy on this blog and elsewhere.   I was shocked looking back at my blog post, I had spent almost no energy really seeing my work from a reader's point of view.  My blog post had followed my personal train of thought meandering across topics and viewpoints leaving a mess that was confusing and at times insulting.

I am so happy to have had a reviewer who could look past the severe structural issues with my writing, and see a valuable core idea within.  It is wonderful to have such supportive people in my life.  More thanks goes to Sharon who helped me immensely in editing my revised submission.

If my revised submission is accepted, I will be sure to publish it here for your enjoyment.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Be A Hero, Right This Moment

Can you be a hero for your values in your life? Can you start in this very moment?

Tales of heroism most often recount a singular moment in an extreme situation. The truth is very different. The most inspiring heroes, who do the most good, result from consistency in action in ten thousand little steps.  If we are to be truly viewed as a hero, it has to be our authentic self that is seen.  We are most authentically seen in the everyday interactions we take, one step at a time.

What Greater Triumph...

What greater triumph, to find empathy for one's own emotions among the kaleidoscopic pageantry created by mere words?

"What greater triumph, to find empathy for one's own emotions among the kaleidoscopic pageantry created by mere words?"

We know all to well the dangers of falling into the disorienting fog of the manipulating language of others, but how often do we stop to take a clear look at our own language? After all, isn't our conscious mind just another "other" to the truth of our inner experiences?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Humility of Honesty - Overcoming the Inner Critic

The beautiful Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens shot with a tilt shift effect reveals a beautiful and delicate model world.
A Small Wonder - Grooming a happy mind and body
takes a lot of small moves incessantly over a lifetime.
Yesterday I was debilitated by a major stomach flu. I had cold sweats, body aches, nausea, cramps, and other icky bodily things. All my body wanted to do was rest. I had the common sense to stay home from work.  But...

I found a part of myself quietly nagging:

  • You could be at that learning class this morning.
  • You could make it to that finance meeting.
  • You could be selling your unneeded things on eBay.
  • You could be making more memes for your blog.

This is a very deep voice implanted a very long time ago.

Talking this over with Sharon, she noted that it is OK to take care of yourself. She stated, just because you are home does not mean you are doing nothing. Indeed, I have been learning recently that effective self care is not inconsequential and requires significant dedication. In order to be successful this dedication must happen not only in the moment, but consistently over all times and all locations.

That voice in my head was making an assumption that self care requires no real energy, dedication, resources, or time.  It assumed that self care is something one does only as a last resort, when nothing else needs to be accomplished.  These assumptions are not true and fall with only a moment's scrutiny.  The voice is a part of my mecosystem now and forever, so trying ignore it, to prove it wrong, or to lock it up is disrespectful and destructive to the self.

Instead I listen calmly and with curiosity.  Like anyone with whom I have a conflict, I listen and ask questions to find out what goals we each have, and against what values we are measuring.  In the end, I have found that even the most annoying nagging voice, has the best of intentions at heart.  It just does not know any other way to communicate.

I have told Sharon many times, that my current primary goal in life is to be my greatest hero.  Here I have found one more way I can step up and demonstrate to my parts, the honesty, curiosity, patience, and humility I hope they can learn to show going forward.

What do you think?  How do you handle that nagging voice?  Where do you think it came from?  From what do you think it protects you?

Evaluating Evaluation

On what basis you assign meaning? What do you flag as important? What do you dismiss as a blur?

The world outside me is filled with stuff, people, and events. The value of that external world is held deep within me, the result of my evaluation based on internal principals.

A thing can hold no value, no emotion, no magic.  It is I who hold all emotion, all value, all magic.  It is mine to assign or remove at will.  We each hold this amazing power.  With these evaluations we can create great pleasure and peace, or great pain and conflict.

Each time we hold our evaluations dear as inseparable components of our inner selves, we take responsibility for those valuations.  We are forced to take pause, give due consideration, act with humility so as not to soil our name, nor disrespect all that got us here.  With each solid evaluation we are able to take pride in our accurate perception of the world and our ability to clearly hold our values dear.

On the other hand, each time we project our evaluations out into the world as though they are independant universal facts of reality, our evaluations become seemingly much more powerful in their supposed lack of subjectivity.  In divorcing our evaluations from ourselves, we loose responsibility for those values.  We insulate ourselves from the risk of error and in turn encourage error prone haphazard value judgement.

Unseen Assumptions

Debating solutions is irrational, if goals are left unspoken in a kaleidoscope of unseen assumptions.
Loosing Track of Why
I have seen all to well my own addictions, searching for solutions to issues while I leave goals mired in fog. I have found this issue of ignoring the question of why, while obsessing over the options of how, very common. I wrote last year about one of the first times I really noticed a business conflict about solutions had not included goal identification.

As I hinted at earlier this week discussing conflict resolution methods; whys are the foundation for resolving our issues quickly and peacefully. I believe the importance of why is common knowledge, but so often we each are happy to sail past foundational questions and assumptions. Back in school, if we were asked to solve a math problem without being given all of the goals and parameters, we would be quick to point out the irrationality of the request.

Avoiding Why

Why helps us answer questions quickly. This is an asset if our goal is to move past an issue. But what if that is not our goal? What if our goal is to relish the pain of conflict, indecision, and anticipation? I can't deny the chemical releases of these feelings are definitely electrifying and have been studied to be addictive.

I know this very well first hand. For a decade I would find myself drawn to the flashlight isle of each Target or home store. I was enamored with the colors, options, features, and price points of the array of lighting choices. I had this nagging doubt about my preparedness for a power outage or nighttime search. I almost never purchased, but I relished the minutes I would spend looking. I was looking for a what; what flashlight would I need? But I was avoiding the why; why do I need a flashlight?

It turns out I never needed a flashlight. What I needed was a problem which had no solution. I needed the feeling which results from having lots of solutions and no basis to pick one. I also needed the feeling of pressure, of critical need that a solution must be picked.

As I have continued my journey of self-knowledge, I now know much more about what I was doing all those years. It has been hard won knowledge, and the answer is not pretty to face, but I am much more content and integrated as a result.

What repetitive behaviours do you perform which don't seem lead to any specific conclusion?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Personal Hero

You could avert someone from decades of repetition, trying to scratch an internal itch with an external action. That would be true heroism.

We all know people who use external behaviors to attempt to address internal issues. The psychology of substance addiction being well documented as a person's compensation for internal pains. One great article on this topic is: Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect - Its Role in Alcoholism & Addiction

While these extreme cases garner much attention, for everyday life, I have noticed constantly most everyone participating in these types of external/internal dichotomies at some level for numerous topics. I wrote in depth on one particular example which occurred at a business lunch last year: Someone Who Can't Stand...Themselves?

I have found personally that it is very hard to see these dichotomies in action within ourselves.  This is another value of having a trusted other nearby to watch out for you.  An empathetic and honest outsider can see the repetition and irrationality in our behaviors clearly, if they have the bravery to call us on them.

What internal itches do you scratch with external actions or experiences? How has that worked so far?

Eyeing the Storm

People rain on our parades. Empathy sees the vast complexity of their storm. Humility knows their storm cannot be pinned down by us. Respect knows they can choose to break free of their patterns. Honesty sees all too often we are the storm for others.
Inspired by the post Empathy, Curiosity and Intrigue

We stand against the wind being soaked by the torrents of another.  Do we focus on our wetness, uncomfort, and inconvenience?  Do we look past our immediate condition and behold the majesty of the storm? Do we seek shelter away from the powerful forces?

I guess it all depends on if we anticipated the storm.  Did we come well equipped?  Did we make provisions for drying off and warming up after?

How about you?  Are you prepared for the next big one?  What will you do in the face of the storm of another's emotions?  What will you do in the face of your own?

Into the Dark

I risk creeping into that dark place inside where I hold pain, fear & anger. I seek to understand my present, unravel my past, and ensure my future.
Looking into the jungles of our inner emotions: The Lesson of a Soccer Goal
As my partner Sharon and I have built up our relationship we have discovered a powerful pattern: Pushing through pain honestly yields peace and freedom, while ignoring pain and covering it with fog yields torment and resentment.

For the last 12 months our mantra has been "Head towards pain."  Pain has become a beacon to attract us to experiences  feelings, and histories which need attention.  Once we give the needed attention to these things, we find ourselves coming out the other side with strength, respect, and wisdom.

It is such a shame that we have only now found this pattern so many decades into our lives.  There are so many pains needing so much attention.  Pushing towards pain is grueling and arduous work, but each resolution becomes a firm brick laid and interlocked to support our future adventures.

As for today; what more risky, thrilling, and complicated adventure could we choose than running the boobitrapped gauntlet to find our authentic selves?

Honor the Noble Few

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss Actually they will be honored.
Speaking Your Straight Truth in a World of Manipulation

Those who are open to hearing your honest expression of your thoughts and feelings will be honored that you trust them with your truth. You have placed them in a small elite group of personalities who can hear raw honesty without fight or flight.

In bestowing this honor you will have gained treasured advisors.  People who will value your honesty and integrity such that they will be able to offer support, curiosity, and empathy when you end up being dishonest with yourself or others.

In this way systems of honesty and honor are self correcting and self reinforcing.  As such, those first few steps of genuine communication will be painful, but confidence and freedom quickly follows.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Emotional Boundaries - Inside and Out

There is wonderful clarity in focusing on the internal roots of emotions, not the external triggers spark our fire.

The Lesson of a Soccer Goal - The Source of Emotions

There is a continual obfuscation of the truth of emotions in our culture. Perennially emotions are portrayed as something outside ourselves; something beyond our reach:

  • A cartoon character is shown with a cloud over his head when he is sad.
  • We exclaim, she made me feel bad! As if we were not involved, and the important factor was external.
  • The Incredible Hulk is shown as having no control over his rage which is created by some external invasive serum.
The truth though, is much different. Emotions are feelings; feelings of the brain. Other feelings we know well are: hunger for the stomach, exhaustion for the lungs, urgency for the bladder, or cramping for the muscles. All organ feelings are internal alarms that notify our conscious mind about the needs of our bodies.  Emotions are the feelings that let our conscious mind know the needs of our brain as an organ.

Our brain thrives on a diet of learning and interaction, mental exploration of our world.  Our emotions let us know if we are feeding our brains well leading to curiosity and determination.  Emotions also let us know if our brain is having trouble digesting contraindications, conformity, hypocrisy, and immorality.

For a deeper look at this subject, be sure to click back the blog post:

Accepting Oatmeal Conversations

Hiding the truth of your experience will guarantee a steady stream of oatmeal like conversations from here to the end of your time.
Read more about truth in relationships here:
Identifying Truth in Real Time - Is it Safe?

I am very passionate about exploring the infinite complexity of being human. Each of us has hundreds of thousands of hours of experiences which have been foundational to: who we are today, what we value, what piques our interests, and what motivates our choices.

We each have more amazing, complex, and thought provoking things to talk about than we could ever explore.  This means if we are engaged in a boring pasty grey interaction, it is by the choice of both parties involved.  This state is most often driven by fear.  For what else but fear and the resulting self defenses could possibly hold us back from the torrent of intellectual and emotional adventure we each long to share?

We so often hide our true experience  our passions, our feelings, our dreams, all in the name of "self protection."

What good is self protection if it enables us to continue to...drip...away...our...hours around those with whom we fear sharing our true selves?

Choosing Hollow Shadows

When we choose to withhold our true feelings from others, we choose to live a life of hollow shadows.

Emotional honesty is my greatest personal value.  The more I have become empathetic to my own emotions, the more cohesive and authentic my external persona has become.  My new sensitivity to my own emotions has opened up my empathy for the internal states of others.  My relationships have strengthened, and my business effectiveness has soared.

My very first blog post (Identifying Truth in Real Time - Is it Safe?was on the topic of emotional honesty.  Since that post I have come to realize emotional honesty must start with one's self before it can be moved on to others.

In what relationships do you practice emotional honesty now?
With whom would you like to try greater honesty of your feelings?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

That Was Great! - Moving On Before the End

I have really enjoyed riding my shiny blue motorcycle to I put it up for sale.

My 2005 Kawasaki Vulcan 800 could be yours!

"I've decided to sell my motorcycle."

"I thought you loved it?"

"I do, I'm just ready to love something else..."

Arguing & Compromise - In Pursuit of Dispute Resolution

When you are in a conflict which applies to you more?
I see disagreements constantly in both my work and personal life.  Being drawn to passionate, driven people and industries, I have much experience with many conflicts of ideas an preferences.  As I have matured, I have been taught much about the most common methods of conflict resolution, argument and compromise.

I have only recently been exposed to other methods of resolution such as discussion (debate) and negotiation.  These two methods in particular are very rarely seen in day to day resolution attempts.  They both are a complete about face from the common methods noted above.  In both cases, discussion and negotiation, turn the personal dynamic of the interaction from one of adversaries to one of mutual cooperation in pursuit of a resolution.  There is a fundamental switch of the outcome from a win/loose, to a win/win resolution.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

You Are Worth Discussing - The Fear of Revealing Ourselves

Recently I was pondering the common fear most of us have against talking about our individual self in an open and honest way with others.  We most often filter our experiences from others and hold back our deepest feelings and insights.  If we are not careful, we can end up saying, "I don't feel comfortable sharing myself."

Inside vs. Outside
I would like to challenge you to join me in exploring the critical nature of internal vs. external when talking about yourself.  In identifying the truth about what is internal and what is external, you can begin to establish boundaries with which you can secure your person from both internal and external attack. Boundaries also allow you to firmly establish for what you are responsible and for what you are not responsible.
I would like to venture out on a limb and guess that; we do not fear sharing ourselves, at all.
It is very likely that each of us have learned to blur the line between internal and external things in our lives and as a result our thoughts on why we hesitate sharing ourselves are clouded.  To explore this topic we will have to look at an analogy for our fears, as well as look at what the self really is that we would be sharing.  

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Creativity - What Is It? Where Is It?

Creativity is a Process of the Subconscious

Ever since the time of Socrates it has been pointed out that as a rule, creative people have no explanation as to where their creativity comes from, nor how it works.  (This is why most actors, artists, and musical stars stumble into their prime of creativity after years of repetition, then loose their edge just as quickly a decade or so later.)

It is said that 80% of our brain's power is in our subconscious, the part of our mind which evolved millions of years ago.  This brain part is a power house of processing; it is all about taking in external data, crunching it, and outputting a result in a flash.  This is the brain with which most animals operate, hence their non-rational, quick reaction behavior.  (For an entertaining and revealing take on the lighting quick power of the subconscious, read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.)

The remaining 20% of our brain, the conscious mind, is the novel development which has sprung us to success as a species and is in fact only a few hundred thousand years old.  Consciousness is the inhibitor that allows us to double check our reactions, step out of the moment, and evaluate long term implications. It is our ability to self-reflect, to see ourselves as a discrete object to be studied and understood, which appears to be unique to all other creatures on earth.  This novel ability to identify a "me" has boon for our survival, but has born an unheard of component of the mind: the ego.

Now that we have a self, our conscious ego sees its own singular power and thinks, "Wow, I am great!"  The conscious mind has no direct access to the subconscious, so it has no direct way to evaluate the power and wisdom contained there.  The result is that most individuals have very little respect for their subconscious and tend to try to run their lives completely in their conscious mind.  This is like trying to drive a car on the highway in second gear; it is stressful, low powered, and touchy.

I posit that one's level of creativity is directly connected to how much one is affected by their subconscious mind.  Often, it is the individuals who have experienced the most trauma in their lives who end up having the most access to the creativity of their subconscious.  Since the subconscious communicates to the conscious using feelings of emotions, emotionally stressful trauma often strengthens ones bridge to one’s primal mind allowing more direct leverage of the raw creative power it generates.

Exploration of the subconscious, and its communication signals, the emotions, is a passion of mine.  If you are curious as well, I would love to hear your thoughts.  We have lots to talk about!

Breaking In - A Career In Theme Park Design

As an architect and owner's representative who specializes in theme park design and renovation, I am often approached by individuals who are interested in making a career of designing for the themed destination entertainment industry. Since each individual's path is different, I can not presume to give specific directions, but what I can do is offer up some mindset changing insights which can start the person on the path to self empowerment and empathy for others.  Traits which will serve them well in their quest for a meaningful career.

What follows is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to an individual seeking a career as an Architect in themed design.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why Dig Deep, Can't Something Just be for Fun?

A friend of mine recently was describing a complex and intriguing new mobile game by Google.  I was interested not so much in the game itself, but mostly in the individual's personal interest in the game.  I was intrigued by what parts of their being had them reacting positively to the games mechanics and philosophy.  To their great credit, they had much to say on these topics.  But at the same time they asked, 'can't something just be fun?' 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Idea Torrents - Full Speed Thinking

At a recent training seminar on the topic of Creative Problem Solving (hosted by Kristen Peterson) we were presented with a methodology for unleashing our brains from our assumptions and prejudices.  This strategy is rapid idea documentation.  It turns out that when we think deliberately, we tend to self-censor ideas that at first don't make sense to us.  We then often only document and develop ideas which feel "safe" and straight forward.

Creative ideas often result from one from having the gall to look at a topic from every angle no matter how ridiculous it may seem.  During the seminar we participated in a few exercises where we generated ideas using a Let it Flow mentality.  We were tasked with documenting simple ideas at high speed with a focus on high quantity.  This method took away our mind's usual way of self censoring ideas.

I loved this so much, that I went wild when asked to brainstorm, for a couple of minutes, ideas on how to make Walt Disney Imagineering remarkable.  As already stated, this list is fast and furious with no censorship.  The quality and potential of the ideas may be uneven, the the quantity opens many doors of possibility...

How to Make Walt Disney Imagineering Remarkable

  • Encourage Movement of Cast
  • Require Defined Objectives
  • Commit to Honesty
  • Embrace our Gut Feelings
  • Develop Business Cases for Our Preferences
  • Take Actions to Make You the Change That Makes Walt Disney Obsolete
  • Have Courage to Commit to the Well Being of Our Guests
  • Assume Yes!
  • Develop Emotional Literacy
  • Require Feedback
  • Educate Ourselves on Humility of the Individual Guest's Experience
  • Share Our Passions
  • Demand Evidence & Support of Ideas
  • Talk to Our Audience
  • Define Our Values
  • Choose Flexibility
  • Require Accountability
  • Eliminate "We" from Commitments
  • Require Respect
  • Stand as Individuals
  • Embrace our Differences
  • Require Cross-Pollination of Personalities
  • Eliminate "We" from Declarations
  • Only Accept Service Oriented Leadership
  • Eliminate Hierarchy

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Path to Empathy - Wait, How Did I Get Here?

One year ago I was reveling in the excitement of self directed learning, yet I isolated myself from the emotional consequences of what I was learning.  Since then, I have undergone an empathetic awakening like nothing I have experienced in my memory.  Today, I find myself in the position of being a philosophical mentor to most everyone around me.  Strangely, while I command much respect for my incisive thinking into complex emotional struggles, I find my attitude softened, with a humble humility pervading my communication tone and methodology.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Questioning One's Career - A Student Asks a Professional...

Do not fear answering a question with more
conviction or seriousness than it was asked

About one year ago I was approached by a creative and driven young student to participate in a school career project in which the student interviews a professional about their career and industry.  As one may expect, the questions asked were dictated to the student by the teacher, and as also expected, they were bland and uninspired.  Given my respect for the creativity and curiosity of this student, I threw myself full force into answering each question with the full force of the wisdom I had earned through my experiences and choices.

Given that they are from one year ago, I was hit hard by how much clarity and insight many of these answers posses.  On the other hand it is also clear to me how little empathy these responses contain.  One year ago, while I had acquired much wisdom, I was very disconnected from my feelings.

In the last year, I have focused much more on the development of my emotional empathy, and as such, my thoughts and language have softened quite a bit.  I hope you will find these responses useful in your own journey to self discovery.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Collectors of Pain - The Future We Build w/ Self Respect

I love talking to gentle people who hold disparate ideas from myself.  When I can engage in a conversation in a gentle way, I can spot false assumptions more easily, and have the freedom to explore their source and ramifications in an environment which is respectful and non-confrontational.

This morning a conversation turned towards fire/rescue personnel.  My discussion partner said something which sparked a flame in my mind.  When talking about rescue personnel it was said, "They give so much (in their work.)"

My mind started churning immediately; I have special knowledge of emergency personnel.  Back at Carnegie Mellon University, I was a volunteer First Responder who was on call 24 hours a day for days at a time.  I knew all too well the life of an emergency responder.  The highs and lows were unforgettable.  Hours and hours of nothing happening followed by an intense hour or so of activity assisting those in very painful situations both physically and emotionally.  It was exhausting.

I extrapolated my experience to empathize with those that do that work professionally.  Long durations of little to do followed by bursts of hectic activity.  I thought of the hours of dead time with its constant struggle to stay mentally awake, followed by an instant demand to be fully on task with vital attention.

"They give so much..."  They do indeed.  But they also take.  They sit in wait, tensely anticipating someone in pain, then rushing to respond.  The rush to the scene of a bloody situation full of emotional torment and quickly try to help others by relieving the pain.  But  this is not without personal effect.  In reliving others pain, the inevitably choose to expose themselves to that pain.  Their entire choice of profession is waiting around for pain and then swoop in to participate in and then hopefully alleviate that pain.

I thought of gamblers and drinkers, riding the lows and elating in the highs.  I though about what a traumatic life that would be.  I imagine what a traumatic place these men and women have come from that they wish to live that life every day.  What would it mean to want to run towards painful traumatic situations every day?  It is one thing to want to be sure those in need are helped, but it is another thing to want to put yourself personally in the path of pain.

I posed an intriguing question to myself, "what if there was almost no one who wanted to subject themselves to those highs and lows?"  What if large numbers of people wanted to be sure those in need had assistance, but also wanted to keep trauma away from their lives?

Would more people become first responders?  My training was only 60 hours, yet I could respond to 95% of the situations which arose.  What if no one wanted that job personally?  The need would still be there.  What amazing innovations would be invented if no one wanted to run towards pain?  What emergency kits would be developed in the age of instant information, and micro electronics   Swarms of tiny robots who could treat burns, set bones, stop bleeding?  Head mounted communication systems for first responders so a trained expert could guide them in what needed to be done in that moment?

There is an analog to this which is stark and powerful.  For 100 years individuals were happy to own slaves in this country.  Pain and trauma was accepted as the way to most effectively pick cotton.  As pain and trauma started to be come less and less acceptable, supporters of slavery said, "but without slaves, who will pick the cotton?"  Well the pain and trauma did become unacceptable, and almost instantly an amazing thing happened.  With no willing participants in the pain, the need for a solution to the problem of cotton picking was suddenly urgent.  And the profit to whoever could solve the problem would be enormous.

With large rewards, comes large impetus for innovation and within a generation machines to pick cotton automatically were developed.  Looking back, it seems obvious that giant machines running on juice refined from plants crushed millions of years ago is a great answer, but it took people standing up against trauma to bring it to light.
Photo Credit:

I am inspired by the possible, and inevitable future.  As more and more people become enlightened and healed from our past traumas, less and less of us will seek out to repeat our traumatic past in the present.  As more and more of us demand self-respect, consistency, and fulfilling lives, more and more painful and mundane job functions will be replaced by such fantastical, yet obvious solutions.

I choose to help push us towards this future, by echoing across my connections the virtues, freedom, and happiness of self-empathy, self-respect, and self-confidence.

I do hope you will join me...

Success in Themed Design - A Personal Message to A Young Designer

Following a passion for no one but myself...

In my position as a design manager for Walt Disney Imagineering, I am often approached for advice by those looking to make a career in creating theme park designs.  In my responses, I in no way speak for the Walt Disney Company.  I instead present the thoughts and feelings which have propelled me the most in my life, and relate those which have resulted in the amazing position I have made for myself not just at work, but in my life as a whole.

I was asked for advice recently on what resources a first year architectural student should investigate on their path to becoming a theme park designer.  I wrote back about a shift of mindset of which I have only recently become consciously aware.  I hope you find this insightful.  I welcome any feedback you may have, or any thoughts which this may inspire within you.

You asked about what resources to look at in regards to architecture.  I will turn that a bit around.  Themed architecture has a heavy component of integrating very desperate goals, disciplines, personalities, and mindsets.  My greatest asset in this work has been the breath of my diverse understanding of multiple viewpoints and priorities.  As I have broadened my empathy for other individual’s ideas, passions, bigotries, and the deep personal histories which drive their daily moods, thoughts, and attitudes, I have become more and more effective at the role of coordinator, and translator for a complex and brilliant team. 
I have also found that empathy for others begins with empathy for your self.  I highly encourage you to delve deep into as many of your passions* and emotions you possibly can.  Challenge your assumptions, and really make an effort to see the world not just from other people’s eyes, but from their deep seated history.  
Themed environment projects bring together one of the most rich and diverse groups of people assembled in order to deliver the final experience.  Anything you can do to put yourself at the center, deeply connected to the most numbers of those personalities, will increase not only your measurable success, but your personal pride, humility, and of course happiness.  
In abstract terms, read up on psychology, logic, and philosophy.  In more practical terms, work on practicing honesty, connection, curiosity, and empathy in your own life every hour of every day.  Start by asking yourself how you feel about a given situation right in the moment as you are feeling uneasy or passionate.  Try not to jump to conclusions or easy answers about feelings.  What we feel are the springs bubbling up from deep seated responses to long strings of experiences in our subconscious.  To start to empathize with the sources of our own feelings is the break-through which allows us to start to truly empathize with others.  
As for WDI, our department heads tend to hire interns who are in their last two years of schooling as they are looking for someone who can hit the ground running.  *Another example of a direct next step is to explore your passions directly and without shame.  If you are interested in themed design, go do themed design, whether someone will pay you or not.  
I felt the passion for it, so in my third year of school with no thoughts of landing a job, I built a themed fa├žade for my dorm room.  I did it just to relive my own tension and fulfill my own curiosity.  I designed it, built it, installed it, marketed it, and even had an opening ceremony with ribbon cutting.  I felt completely off the wall at the time, but in parallel, my actions felt like the most natural thing in the world:
Keep me up to date!  And I would love to talk with you more if any of this piques your interests.
Park Street Place was a themed set piece for my dorm room.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are... Indeed

I was heavily affected, or more precisely, I had a strong connection and reaction to the movie I saw a couple of nights ago, Where the Wild Things Are.  I went into this movie with the assumption I would find a pleasant fantasy adventure.  My defenses were down as I expected no more than a superficial family friendly film which would avoid serious and important topics.  This is not what I ended up seeing.  I instead I meet a creative, passionate, resourceful young boy who has been the victim of so much abuse.

So much abuse, that his entire world is abuse and rejection.  This perverted baseline is what is assumed to be normal.  But the boy knows much different.  He has a core that is longing for connection, longing for respect, adventure, for love.  He has only learned domination, and abandonment in his short time on the earth.  He has learned compliance, and lonely singular dictatorial strength.  As his internal compass of universal morality is challenged, he uses the only tools he has been given, the only tools which have been modeled for him; attack, domination, angry will, and in the end, abandonment in order to get his way.  Of course, instantaneously, he is reminded that these methods, so brazenly and proudly utilized by the adults and older children in his life, and seen as crazy, wild, and evil by those same people when they see him trying those same techniques.

The real adventure, violence, chaos, joy, and mystery comes when the boy sails off into his subconsciousness mind and lands in a metaphorical land where he is left alone and defenseless to meet and explore the violent and giant parts of his personality ecosystem.  He is completely alone in this journey.  Not only does he have no connection to the outside world while in his mental struggle, he also brings no tools, methodologies, or guide maps from the outside to help him in dealing with his internal struggles.

Not one person in his life spent one second of their time to prepare him for the internal adventure which is part of being human.  No one told him of the many monsters waiting for him in his mind.  In fact, it is readily apparent that this guidance was not given to the adults themselves.  The adults function in social group where each thinks they are alone in their mental struggle, where each has been trained to shun, dismiss, and ridicule the mental struggle of any other, and each person is left scared and alone, surrounded by monsters in their own mind.  The only "success" they have had in dealing with the monsters is to dissociate   Is to shun them with the distraction of a flashy chaotic life.  A life of incessant routine, compliance, and social conformity.

So this child is left cutting a path into his own wild mind with only the tools of dysfunction, domination, and dissociation to use in trying to understand, connect, and accept the powerful, scary, passionate, personality parts which are imprinted within his own mind.  The boy tries manipulation, using lies to affect the behavior of his monsters.  He tries domination, tricking the monsters into temporary subservience using promises he has no ability to fulfill.  He jumps in feet first using loud flashy displays of physical and verbal intimidation to try to affect an impression.  He tries inspirational distraction projects to keep the monsters busy and offer the illusion of connection and teamwork without any of the hard work of building trust.

He is irrational in his strategies, while his monsters are irrational in their thoughts and actions.  The irrationality of the parts bounce off each other like ping pong balls on mousetraps trapped in a glass box.  Since there is no understanding, no empathy, no rational basis to make a meaningful connection, every interaction spirals wildly out of control.  Play turns to fighting, joy to anger, anger to hurt, and hurt to dissociation.  I respect the people involved in the production of this film in that they do not shy away from the brutal mental reality of this dynamic.  Violence and domination is portrayed as it is felt, a normal baseline for the boy's reality.  Bodies are violated, possessions destroyed, feelings hurt, people ignored, and all of this is done without batting an eye and presented as completely normal.  Having the film face how "normal" these thoughts and feeling are is one of the most powerful, and uncomfortable ideas presented.

So that is some of the genius of the film.  But this film had a problem, it had no where to go.  The boy had no tools or experience to be able to build any trust or connections with his monster parts of his personality.  This film can not end on a positive note.  It is but a window into a typical day of a child of our society   It offers no hope for change, and in fact show every indication that the boy has taken one more step towards becoming the dominate, disconnected, unempathetic  conforming adult personality which has created all his torment in the first place.

With no challenges resolved, and no connections made, (if anything a major connection was broken and abandoned,) the boy leaves the wild of his mind to return to the arms of the person(s) who created, and continue to curate the turmoil in both his life and mind.  Thinking this over again as I type this, the movie may be much more brutal in its ending than I have initially realized.

Upon returning to his family home, the boy does not share his adventure with his parent.  No connection is made at all.  The parent shares none of her inner turmoil.  Instead they hug tightly then share chocolate cake. They indulge in physical stimulation of a hug.  A hug meant to simulate and distract from the connection that they do not share.  The hug being a repeat of the vast team building project in the boy's mental world which was meant to simulate and distract from the lack of team connection and trust.  The two turn to cake for additional disconnection from their pain.  The indulge in physical comfort by using food to substitute for the emotional comfort they so desperately want but are so terrified of requesting or offering.  (And for good reason, every other time a connection was requested in the movie, it was ignored, dismissed, or physically punished.

Many of us know where these precedents lead.  This life will not go well for this poor boy.  We close the film on the precedent that physical connection can be substituted for a missing emotional connection.  This boy will go through a string of relationship where he and his partners use physical stimulation of make out sessions and sex to avoid the terrors of their missing emotional attachments.  Each affair will end badly with each blaming the other, and none wiser for the experience.  Eventually biological clocks will chime and he will marry the closest person to him at the time when social pressure to reproduce becomes unbearable.  He will share in creating a couple of kids then will either hand around in his hollow relationship imprinting the emptiness onto his children, or he will abandon ship leaving his children in the same exact situation which opens this film.

As for the cake, the external stimulation of our emotions using physical factors, we know where this leads to as well.  Using food to manage emotions leads to weight and health issues.  It cascades back on itself as one gains weight, reinforcing the feeling that one is not worthy of emotional connection.  If social pressure to stay thin wins out, the need to externalize emotional stimulation will just move on to something else, such as sports mania, video games, gambling, drugs, smoking, or heaven forbid, the intellectual masturbation of academia.

So there in lies the tension.  This movie pulls the cover off the rotting perpetual motion machine of emotional abuse, torment, and isolation that is the vast majority of every person's childhood inner world.  It lays bare all that most of us do not want to face in a computer rendered glory of a metaphorical tale.  It is covered up with just enough decoration to allow those who wish to see a gruesome look, while giving cover to those who wish to look away enough to see without really seeing the destructive patterns for the sad horrible and evil reality that they are.

This film offers no hope, no course correction, and no methodologies for connection.  The entire mental adventure is presented in the bubble of the child's mind with no connections offered to any outside people.  Not once is any adult or sibling's minds presented.  Not once is any mirror provided to show what is in the child was first in the adult.  We are instead presented the system as a snapshot in time, a system which simply exists tragically, which has no beginning and no end.  There is no possibility to avoid this system, and in the end, no need to.  Nothing quite works out, but that is OK.

Of course there absolutely is another way.  A horrible one indeed.  One that changes everything.  One that calls into question the morals, courage, and wisdom of all who have come before us.  Indeed, adults are not forces of nature.  They are not spewing volcanoes of power around which children must arrange their lives and avoid as much injury as possible.  No, adults have something wonderful and powerful.  Something which enables all of the best things in life including love, honor, integrity, and morality...  Adults have choice.

One would not know this from watching this movie.  Not one adult choice is demonstrated in the entire two hours of the film.  Adults are shown faithfully from the child's point of view.  They are shown as powerful gods who react solely based on the choices of the child.  Every action an adult takes in this film is a direct reaction to a choice made by the child.  Any actions not connected to a child's choice are seen simply as fundamental truths of the child's reality.

Adult actions are always shown as universal truths of reality.  There is no other possible actions any given adult can take in any situation.   When the boy's single mom is having a date with a gentleman in her living room while her kids are alone elsewhere in the house, the fact that the mother chose this course of events is completely avoided at all costs.  Indeed, it must be avoided by the film makers.  For if it were revealed to be a series of events chosen by the adults, the follow up scene would have turned the audience's stomachs.

In the follow up scene in the kitchen, the boy chooses to express his discontent with the series of events.  He is quickly and coldly admonished by his mother for choosing to say or do things that are uncomfortable for her.  Do you see the problem?  Do you see the gaping hole in this mother's mind?  The smoking crater in her head which should hold reality, empathy, justice, and honor?  She has just stated that is is bad, wrong, unempathetic, out of line, and unacceptable for a person to make a choice which leads to uncomfort in another person.  She is saying that the child should be kind, emotionally connected, and sensitive to how his actions or words will affect the emotions of others.  He should make his choice based on how it will affect other people.

My gosh I can not dwell on this point enough.  Her in lies the entire smoking crater of the movie.  The root cause of all neglect, abandonment, pain, and dissociation in both this movie an most of our childhoods.

This parent MUST willfully blind herself to her own choices in order to admonish her son's.  For if it is morally critical that her son learn to make choices based on how they will effect others at his age of 9, it follows that she herself must be at least as responsible to make her choices based on their effect to others at her age of 35.  Diving deeper into this topic the light of truth and consistency shows a dark topic which the movie studiously avoids.

The mother has a much higher responsibility in this matter than her boy.  In fact, her responsibility to follow the moral teaching she is inflicting on her son is orders of magnitude above his own.  She has decades more real world practice than he does in making choices and seeing the resulting affect on others.  She has infinitely more power and resources to make mindful responsible choices in her life than he does.  Her relationship to him and the house in which they live is completely voluntary, while his relationship to her and the house is completely imposed and enforced.

And so our light of reason reveals a horrible inversion in the family.  An inversion which every single person knows, oh so well at the core of their being.  An inversion so strong, so contradictory, so ugly, so painful, and so damning to the care givers in our lives, that we must, at all costs, avoid not only speaking of it, but even thinking of it.  It is taken as essential truth in our minds that children have infinite choice and responsibility while adults actions with regards to children reflect little to no choice and no responsibility.

Of course we know this is not the case.  We know deep into our souls, down our spine to the pit of our intestines, that this is not true.  And so we rot away on the inside, trying to hold the lie at our core nest to the truth we know all to well.  Like matter and antimatter, we try to keep the lie and the truth apart while forcing them both deeper and deeper into ourselves to avoid our own knowledge of the conflict.

This is the truth I have seen and can not avoid.  Children have almost no choice at all in their lives.  They have no income, they have no legal possessions, they have no choice in with whom they spend time, or in how they live.  They have almost no choice over their education, how they are treated, or to whom they will give their respect and love.  They are treated as pets, slaves, and court jesters.  They are paraded around like groomed dogs when they do things adults like, while they are hidden, hit, yelled at, or shunned when they do things adults do not like.

At the same time adults have every choice in the world, both in the present and the past.  They choose who they live with, what they do, what they buy, where they go, who they talk to, and whom they respect.  They chose who to honor, what to stand for, how to make decisions, what was good, what was evil, with who would they partner and who would they avoid, would they have children and how would they treat them.  They choose the methodology for conflict avoidance and resolution, they choose when to ask for help, when to reach out for more knowledge, and when to have the humility to admit that they just don't know.

Of course we are then left to decide what to do with the knowledge we just uncovered...  Do we dare walk back in our minds to that kitchen scene, and see what is really going on.  Do we dare apply the filter of truth and the clarity of morals and responsibility to the situation.  Do we dare to see the grown up child acting out to avoid their own knowledge of their childhood.  Do we dare to see the mother pleading and then commanding their child to comply as they once were forced to do?  Do we see her increase in emotion and her irrational choices as the true choices that they are?  The choices that allow her to avoid the crimes of her past.  To avoid the knowledge of the trauma with which she was victimized?

Of course that woman is no longer a victim   When she choose to dominate her child rather than face her past she became the aggressor.  She became the moral depravity that she so passionately swore she never would become.  She needs so much help to become self empathetic.  She needs so much guidance, connection, honesty, and openness to untie the horrible knots of abuse.  But she can not get this from her boy.  Of course she can't.  There would be no basis on earth to think she could.  Her boy's mind is a reflection of the dysfunction which she has imposed in him so her only option is to look outward.

To heal herself, she would have to reach for education and connection, empathy and understanding from others in books, community, and therapy.  If she does this, she can start to turn her life around.  She can start to repay her son for the abuse she inflicted, and she can let go the irrational thought that she could ever have a trusting, connected relationship with him.

There is a darker option, instead of healing, she plunges deeper into her darkness to avoid her pain.  If this is her choice, we must compare it to the virtuous choice above as well as look at the resulting effect it will continue to have on the captive children in her care.  If she turns away from the knowledge, resources  and resolution so readily available  then she has turned into the monster she wishes to avoid.  She has aimed herself at a death spiral which will accelerate into the ground.

She is fully responsible for this.  It is horrible for us to watch and a sad spectacle indeed.  But we can not let her off the hook of responsibility for her choices.  We already established earlier that she has orders of magnitude more irresponsibility for her choices than her son.  So if we indeed do let her off the hook, to be consistent, we must let every other person off the hook who is less responsible.

And so, our entire morality structure collapses.   If the most responsible person is not held responsible, than no other lessor responsible person can justly be held accountable for their choices.  Right and wrong must be abandoned and all people seen as simply reactions to their surroundings.  But, you already know this is not an option.  The sword of morality is too powerful and too seductive to not be picked up.  So if we are to keep the power of determining right from wrong, we must stand tall and demand consistency in other's claims of morality.