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Pressure to Act August 25, 2012

Posted by Jason in Management.
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I just finished the book Skyward by Admiral Richard Byrd.  Byrd was the first person to fly over the North Pole and the South Pole, in 1926 and 1929, respectively.

The book has several themes around aviation, exploration, and the future of commercial travel.  But it also has a theme that the author couldn’t have envisioned: it maps the pace of life at that time, which is all the more significant given our modern technology for communication and planning.

In Byrd’s day, radio communication and telegrams were common, but long distance telephone calls were a special event.  By far, letters and newspapers were the primary means of communicating to the masses and between individuals.  How did major undertakings like polar expeditions get off the ground?

Byrd admits directly that the plans were laid years before in his own mind, mapped, studied, and validated with others familiar with the risks.  It was his own careful planning and even invention of special navigation instruments that allowed the trips to occur at the time they did.

Contrast this with the expectation of speed that comes with instant messages, texts, emails, and video chats.  Have we lost our awareness of the need for “deep thinking” and contemplation that builds memories and connections?  Have we forgotten that weighty decisions and risky undertakings should at least be contemplated over a good night’s sleep?

The pressure to act is strong.  We are often quick to take on a challenge or a task without contemplation of risks or workloads.  But it is this contemplation that allows for both creative solutions and daring explorations.

Don’t forget to sleep on it.

Noisy Inspiration June 23, 2012

Posted by Jason in Daily PM, Writing.
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I don’t know about mere decibel level being the key to creativity, but I can personally relate to this study.  [Edit: another version here] When I write magazine or other non-technical content, I’ll often head straight for the coffee shop.  I don’t have any science to back it up, but simply being in the presence of a group helps me visualize my audience.

How would I describe this topic to that person?  What questions would I ask to determine their frame of reference and familiarity?

The background noise isn’t just noise.  It’s voices and conversations, even the TV in the corner, each with its own stream of consciousness.  Whether consciously or not, I pick up words here and there that prompt my own thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes even being in that environment with earbuds in provides a new line of thinking that wouldn’t have appeared were I listening to the same sounds in isolation.  It’s a mix of visual and audible content that provides a fertile bed for new thoughts to connect and evolve – and it all depends on the topic I’m working on.  Technical work demands different focus, language, and tone because of the audience than does writing for the general public.

Whatever your creative outlet, a new mosaic of sensory input can definitely help to put you in the right frame of mind or get over the agony of the blank page.  I’m going to guess it’s not just about loudness, but the coffee doesn’t hurt either.