Charlton Heston on Film Technology in 1979

In a 1979 interview with Charton Heston in Conversations at the American Film Institute with The Great Moviemakers, he has this to say about technology:

Technology has given us so much more opportunity to do unusual things that you couldn’t do with a camera before. The equipment is lighter, more portable; the film is faster, the lenses are faster. Everything is more readily available to you, and directors sometimes tend to get caught up in exclaiming how wonderful a shot is. But what is it about? How does it serve the story? I remember something Wyler taught me. I had come back from seeing some film and was saying how well directed I thought it was, and he said, “You have to be careful with that. If everybody says, ‘Isn’t that well directed?’ it means they weren’t paying attention to the story.” The direction should not call attention to itself. Neither should the acting or the writing.

This quote is even more true today and there are many more aspects of film production we can add to this list: color correction, motion graphics, computer generated imagery and effects. We can even add other industries that are affected by this thought: design, web development, app and software development, video games.

It all comes back to story. Want to stand out? Tell a story that really matters and affects people. Everything should serve that central goal, not the other way around.

Taming Emotions. Igniting Focus.

As I was planning my weekly schedule this past Sunday evening, I had planned to write about how to tame emotions and ignite focus. As a creative person, I have struggled with a wide range of emotions as I go from project to project: insecurity, fear, anxiety, mania, flow, excitement, and dread. It’s amazing how difficult working on a project can be.

About an hour ago, I was reading Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields and he artfully dismantled my feelings that I was the only person who struggled with these emotions. He tells several stories about how creativity can sap your brain power and leave you vulnerable to emotions as well as a loss of willpower (which explains my Hot Tamales addiction). Because the brain is easily fatigued, Fields provides two reasons why this should cause everyone to take notice:

What we often experience as resistance, desire, distraction, burnout, fatigue, frustration, and anxiety in the process of creating something from nothing may, at least in part, be PFC [prefrontal cortex] depletion that reduces our willpower to zero and makes it near impossible to commit to the task at hand . . . . In addition, what so many creators experience as a withering ability to handle the anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty as a project nears completion may actually be self-induced rather than process-induced suffering (p. 56).

Lightbulb moment: This explains a lot of my emotional struggles the past year. But what I love is that it hasn’t been the work that has made me suffer, it has been me. I have been forcing myself to work longer hours, with less breaks, eating horrible (although tasty at times) food, and not working on passion projects.

What is the solution? Fields suggests, through a literary hat tip to Tony Schwartz, that we work in 45-90 minute bursts, then refuel our prefrontal cortex by walking, relaxing, or engaging in activities that refresh us. In addition, he talks about the importance of maintaining a daily ritual for the purpose of gaining momentum through difficult times.

What does your daily ritual look like? Are you planning every moment or do you give yourself time to breathe?

Thank you Mr. Fields.

The Power of Scribbles and Sketches

The art says it all

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I’m a huge fun of scribbling and sketching. Even though there are no easy ways to learn, I find that scribbling and sketching give me a chance subvert the confines of the mind and find unknown (to me) thoughts and ideas.

One year of blog post ideas. #oneperweek

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Scribbling and sketching give me a chance to write down my thoughts and create lists of ideas in fun ways, playing with different handwriting styles. They also give me a way to sketch grids and box-like shapes, focusing on the relationships between nodes, letters, shapes, and lines.

@belgort on the whiteboard in his super cape

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While my drawing skills are severely limited, I at least have fun with a whiteboard. I love to sketch fun caricatures of friends.

The path to the future

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Being a fan of systems and processes, scribbling and sketching allow me the opportunity to visualize abstract ideas. For example, if the path to the future was not a single path, what would it look like? Analyzing the drawing above, where does it start and where does it end? Exactly.

How I Write #process

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From chaotic and abstract paths to the future, to fun ways to procrastinate while finishing my homework, scribbling and sketching helped me to articulate my writing process (in fun comic/animation style).

Today's task list is ready

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They also help my daily task lists be a little more artistic and enjoyable to look at while giving me a canvas to doodle on, all day long.

Presentation hell

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I’m a huge fan of sharpies and ink pens. The lines are permanent and it takes a confidence to lay them down.

I have a lot to learn about scribbling and sketching, but these are just a few ways I use them daily to have a little bit of fun.

How about you?


A Burning Desire to Excel

Buried in The Education of an Illustrator by Steven Heller and Marshall Arisman is a beautiful quote on what it means to be a student of the arts:

“Education should stress the fundamentals, encourage the desire to learn, and create a safe environment in which the students can learn more about themselves, take risks, and grow to exceed their perceived potential. But, no matter how well the educator orchestrates this, it will only work if the students are not only willing to learn, but have a burning desire to excel in their chosen field. Going through the motions is a sure path toward being stuck in the pursuit of the norm. The main problem is that the norm isn’t achievable because it’s always changing. However, with a willingness to learn and a desire to excel, today’s students can create the next norm and the next.” — Thomas B. Allen

Do you have a burning desire to excel?

Of Change and Resolution

That feeling when you read something that sticks in your mind like a nagging thought. It won’t go away. It feeds on hope and insecurity. All that is right with the world, all that is wrong, is consumed by the thought that perhaps as a society we’ve been here before.

Joseph Campbell (2008) writes in The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

As Professor Arnold J. Toynbee indicates in his six-volume study of the laws of the rise and disintegration of civilizations, schism in the soul, schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme of return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardheaded work to weld together again the deteriorating elements. Only birth can conquer death–the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new. Within the soul, within the body social, there must be–if we are to experience long survival–a continuous “recurrence of birth” (palingenesia) to nullify the unremitting recurrences of death.  (pp. 11-12).

Change and the Unexamined Life

“In addition to our personal and lifelong contributions, our world is brought into being by the changes that occur in it, changes that accelerate as we speak. The result is a mixture of involvement–plus discovering the external facts, the data the world sends to us, the changes that we makes as cultures and as individuals, changes made by science and technology, and change caused by political action and by wars. What puts it all together in one comprehensive mix is of course the adaptation of which living beings–especially humans–are capable.” – Peter Koestenbaum, Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Leading Change

Influence and Ethics

My current class is on business ethics and I love this class, especially given the political season we are in and the amount of money businesses are funneling into campaigns in order to lobby for less government regulation.

Perhaps the most intriguing topic thus far has been regarding the influence the organization we work for has upon our individual habits and character.

I have worked for a few places in the past where I believed that I could change the organization because of my idealism and belief that things could be different (as most of us knew, things needed to be drastically different, but that is neither here nor there).

However, over time, I found myself being shaped into an agent of the corporation, ultimately compromising my values and beliefs in order to earn favor and a paycheck.

This desire to not conform to the corporate view that I was a means to an end led me to start my own business. But even as a solopreneur, I am still shaped by my own organization of one because I work with organizations and individuals who in turn have their own culture of ethics. I am still bound by the choices made as an organization pursuing the goals of profit and growth, with an individual and social conscience.

Every time a scandal erupts or I hear stories from friends that have been let go from their jobs, I start to see the limit of individual corruption and conformity. Human beings can only be stretched so far before they are faced with a start reality: sell your soul to the company store or find another way.

Many go the long road of finding another way.

Others sell their soul.

Neither is wrong, but one is optimal to living a meaningful life.

Go Ahead and Fix Problems, There Will Be More…

As a nation, are we afraid to fix problems? Are we afraid that there won’t be anything left for us to do if we solve what ails us as a society?

There will always be problems, but solutions will become endangered.

Solutions are the minority and we have built walls around the borders of our minds, arresting the alien thoughts that attempt to subvert business as usual.

Solutions will become rarer, harder, and increasingly expensive.

Look at the blood shed for economic equality across the world.

See the lives lost for religious freedom.

Hear the pain of those struggling with diversity and tolerance.

The world needs heroes.

You, me, everyone working together for the good of one another.

Hippy? Idealist? A little naive? Yes, but problems will never be solved through cynicism and inaction.

As a client recent stated in an interview: “We can solve poverty if one person addressed and helped another.”

1-to-1 is the true representation of equality.

What will you do today to be a hero?

Job Creators

I heard the doorbell ring. I got up and answered the door and there was a young boy–maybe 8 or 9–with a tattered sheet of paper in his hands, and he began to fumble his way through his speech: “I’m starting a lawn mowing company and wanted to know if I could mow your lawn for you.”

After I listened to what he had to say, I politely declined because even though I don’t mow my lawn enough, I actually enjoy doing it.

There is a lesson to be learned from this young boy: Don’t sit around waiting for other people to create jobs for you, realize you are the job creator for your life.

Thankfully no one has told this kid that the government needs to create a job for him. He’s out there hustling on his bike, taking care of business.

If an 8 year old boy can do it, so can you.

The Crippling That Crowns

“Inevitably, sooner or later, there comes a crisis . . . in which we are brought to the appalling sense of our own incompetence and weakness. That is a great hour, an hour of overwhelming disappointment merging to despair; the result of which we shall never again be what we were, but we shall go softly all our days.”

— G. Campbell Morgan