Being early

For our first interview for The Distance, he arrived 20 minutes early to the Starbucks in suburban Chicago where we had arranged to meet. Due to a slight miscommunication, I ended up at a different Starbucks at the same intersection, so he actually waited for 40 minutes before we figured out what was happening.

Jim was gracious, though, and later explained that his penchant for extreme punctuality stemmed from his days as a professional trumpet player. As a freelance musician, he needed to be dependable — competition for gigs was intense, and band leaders didn’t want to deal with players who showed up late or weren’t prepared. Jim arrived at all his gigs early, with enough time to warm up and even grab a cup of coffee before the performance started.

Though I’m sure a friend or colleague could remind me otherwise, I share the same desire for punctuality as Jim, likely as well due to my experience as a musician in my youth. I always arrive early and never seldom arrive late. Which is to say the habit of people arriving late for meetings in Taiwan drives me crazy, because in some circles here the more important you are the later you arrive.

There so many basic skills that are all too often forgotten.

From: The Music Man


“If everyone had the luxury to pursue a life of exactly what they love, we would all be ranked as visionary and brilliant. … If you got to spend every day of your life doing what you love, you can’t help but be the best in the world at that. And you get to smile every day for doing so. And you’ll be working at it almost to the exclusion of personal hygiene, and your friends are knocking on your door, saying, “Don’t you need a vacation?!,” and you don’t even know what the word “vacation” means because what you’re doing is what you want to do and a vacation from that is anything but a vacation — that’s the state of mind of somebody who’s doing what others might call visionary and brilliant.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson


A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives.

The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.
Relax! You’ll Be More Productive


If You Multitask Often, You’re Impulsive and Bad at Multitasking

Multitasking appears to be less of a special talent and more of an ADD-type behavior: The frequent multitaskers in this study were just unable to focus on one thing at a time.

The people who multitask the most tend to be impulsive, sensation-seeking, overconfident of their multitasking abilities, and they tend to be less capable of multitasking.

From Who Multi-Tasks and Why? Multi-Tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-Tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking. Via The Atlantic. See also The Myth of Multitasking.


“There is an ugliness in being paid for work one does not like”

The greatest satisfaction you can obtain from life is your pleasure in producing, in your own individual way, something of value to your fellowmen. That is creative living!

When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob?

From: How to Avoid Work


It’s hard being number 2


Derek Sivers’ 3-minute TED talk on leadership.

If you’ve learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons:
A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!
Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.
The 2nd follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.
A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers – not the leader.
Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!
As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.
And ladies and gentlemen that is how a movement is made! Let’s recap what we learned:
If you are a version of the shirtless dancing guy, all alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you.
Be public. Be easy to follow!
But the biggest lesson here – did you catch it?
Leadership is over-glorified.
Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:
It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.
There is no movement without the first follower.
We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.
The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.
When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Via Monoscope. See also Seth Godon.


Relevance

“And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?” – Matthew Chapter 7, Verse 3

I’m not one for quoting the Bible but I happened upon this today and it seems entirely relevant to the people I am forced to deal with lately.


Filling out your Pie, Maxing your Triangle

triangle.jpg
When I was in Don Johnson’s trumpet studio years and years ago, one of the many concepts he tried to ensure we remembered was to divide our work into a pie chart. He wanted us to diversify the sources and types of income we generated to both ensure we could weather tough times and to create a balance in the type of work we were performing. It was a survival and growth technique.
Jack Cheng has a different approach to a similar equation which he calls the love-growth-cash triangle and I like it very much.

I find that most people take on new jobs, projects and hobbies for three reasons: 1) To learn something new, 2) To pay the bills, 3) Because they love doing it. These three things fulfill some of our very basic needs—they give us stability, excitement, ways to contribute and opportunities to grow.

He goes in greater detail and it’s a worthy read. Via.


[Bits] On work, work, and working

Startup, Inc – What You Need To Know Before Starting A Company
Often people start a company without any clear idea of what a company is. Entrepreneurs closet themselves in the garage and start writing code. While the modern tech world could not exist without obsession, artistic inspiration and crazy engineers, there’s more to a startup than passion. Alex explores the basics behind corporate entities, stock, financing, and the key non-technical infrastructure every company should have.[via Swissmiss]
Walking the Line When You Work from Home
Working from home as a freelance contractor or remote employee can be a great thing, particularly if you live alone. But what if you have a spouse and/or children at home with you while you work? Every work environment offers distractions, but those who work from home with their families face a unique set of issues—and need equally unique ways of dealing with them.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Managing Multiple Jobs At Once
Some of us take on second jobs to make ends meet. Some do it for a chance to do the work they actually enjoy. And some of us create our own second jobs to build a business or create our own projects. No matter what the reason, though, juggling more than one job is guaranteed to be a crash course in time management. If you’re not careful, the word ‘crash’ could become more than figurative
Tim Ferriss interview
Whether you are a musician, entrepreneur, employee, or all three, everyone has too much stuff you have to do, and not enough time for the stuff you want to do.
If you have something that you would like to make and you just don’t know how to test it, make sure you’re scratching your own itch. Like Twitter: Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey created it in two weeks as a way to scratch their own itch. He said, “At least that way you know that one person is interested in having it.” It’s amazing how many otherwise smart, well-funded companies will use awful statistically-invalid focus groups, then say, “Well, no one in this room likes the idea, but our focus groups tell us that we should make it,” so of course the product comes out and it fails.


The Problem with Telecommuting

This past Monday I had problems with my wireless network which prevented me from having access to the internet. I thought at the time it was a problem with my isp, as I had thought many times before, but playing with the settings created a voila moment, miraculously allowing network access.
Yesterday for some inexplicable reason I could not access a site that I use to run a web app.. In fact half of the sites I use, all on the same server, are unreachable – the other half are fine. All of these use the same block of IP addresses. I can’t continue with the work I was doing 5 minutes before the outage.
Is this the 21st century equivalent of my car won’t start?
Our increasing dependence on complex magical systems like the internet for our livelyhood makes me wonder what would happen if there were extended outages or increased unreliability at just the worst possible moment. I can’t get to work and there is no ‘internet bus’ to take me there.


December Exhibition

“To present the musical soul of the masses, of the great factories, of the railways, of the transatlantic liners, of the battleships, of the automobiles and aeroplanes. To add to the great central themes of the musical poem the domain of the machines and the victorious kingdom of Electricity.”
“I unfurl to the freedom of air and sun the red flag of Futurism, calling to its flaming symbol such young composers as have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice.”
A few years ago I became enamoured with the audio environment around me. Through my photoblog at that time I had already been noticing and sharing small bits of visual artifacts but noticing interesting signals through all the noise that is present here was something new. When you take the time to listen you may find yourself surprised at the remarkabley diverse array of delightful noise. Your cityscape transforms itself into futuristic noise orchestra that constantly changes, a never ending performance, which in turn completely changes you and your relationship with your city.
And I started to record and think of ways to share what I heard. I decided I wanted to be a sound artist.
A year and a half ago I finished a body of work, well mostly just prototypes and concepts given form, of sound art and tangible UI/interactive art. It was a tremendous learning experience – an education in product development rolled up in less than a year. We exhibited in an entirely appropriate old railway house to some acclaim. Since then I have been lucky to show various pieces at other venues throughout Taiwan. But until now I haven’t had the oportunity to focus entirely on sound art.
This December I will exhibit my traffic series of installations in Puli Taiwan. I wanted to show more, including my ambient room, but budgets would not allow. I’m looking forward to it as a source of inspiration and a break from the doldrums of freelancing.
All the pieces are reltively similar but with different execution. Here are brief descriptions of the pieces:
Traffic 1
“Now we are satiated and we find far more enjoyment in the combination of the noises of trams, backfiring motors, carriages and bawling crowd.
To excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of musical noise.” -The Art of Noises- Luigi Russolo
Traffic 1 is a series of sound vignettes played through custom built enclosures. It communcates through sound various emotions felt during the daily commute through Hsinchu’s streets. Using the simplest tools possible I set out to recreate the sounds I hear when driving in traffic in Hsinchu.
Traffic 2
Traffic 2 attempts to create spontaneous real time auditory compositions or improvisations using data gained from network traffic. A secondary aim is to test our understanding of the usage of network data in the public and private sphere.
We treat the network as an unseen life form – a body in constant change – born from the usage patterns of the users of the system. By using network traffic as a tool for creating music we in effect illustrate this unseen form.
Unlike traditional musical performances, Traffic 2 does not exist over a set period of time. It is in effect never ending and never the same at any given point in time.
Traffic 3
Over a period of time we gathered sound samples from various locations throughout the city of Hsinchu. We edited these samples and tuned them to a specific harmonic structure. We then fed these sounds, over a 100 in total, into our software agent which communicates with our server. The result is a cacophony of sound which could be understood as the city of Hsinchu acting as a Futurist Noise orchestra driven by network traffic.