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Zooming in–The magic of looking more closely

Too often, we take what we are offered at face value. The zoom setting is determined by someone else, and in our rush to get onto the next thing, we fail to discover what is going on within.

The act of zooming (actually or metaphorically) is a modern thrill, the opportunity to see what was there as we move closer to what is there. Suddenly, new levels reveal themselves to us, and we begin to see the mechanisms that are hidden from us at first glance.

My hunch is that once a medical student has understood what makes us tick, people don’t look quite the same anymore. And once you understand how the banking system works, a credit card offer feels a bit different as well.

If you want a cool example of how this works, click on this photo of 84 million stars, a composite of photos shot by a telescope in Chile. The ESO telescope is capable of putting together a 9 billion pixel image.

But once you click once, you can zoom, again and again and again. Those repeated clicks reminded me of just how vast the galaxy is, more than I ever could have learned from a single picture. It turns out that this vastness is repeated in every system in our lives. If we only care enough to zoom.

“This will change your mind”

How often is that true?

Not very.

Changing a mind is difficult work. It won’t happen with a standard intervention, and it probably requires enrollment on the part of the person you’re engaging with as well.

Choosing to be a citizen

Citizens aren’t profit-seeking agents who are simply constrained by rules. Citizens behave even if there isn’t a rule about it.

Citizens aren’t craven partisans, voting for party over fact. Citizens do the right thing because they can, even if the short-term cost is high.

Citizens live by the rule of community: If everyone did what I’m about to do, would it lead to a useful outcome?

Sometimes we call citizens heroes, which is a shame, because their actions should be commonplace, not rare. The myth of success based on short-term self-interest has been disproven again and again. It seems obvious that leaving things better than you found them is a powerful step forward, because you’ll probably be back this way again one day soon.

Every successful community, every organization, every family has citizens. It’s the citizens who define the future, because their commitment to the long-term matters.

In search of reciprocity

If your posture is to give hoping that you’ll earn the moral high ground and thus get something back, you didn’t give first.

You gave second.

You’re saying, “how can I incur a debt, one that I’m going to use to achieve my goals.”

If the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ appear in your reasoning before you get to the work you’re hoping to contribute, then your goal is reciprocity. Calling it generosity merely confuses the issue.

Luck on demand

Alas, not an option.

Luck over time is inevitable, though.

If you show up with good work and generous action, again and again, sooner or later something that appears to others to be luck will appear.

Because luck over time is a symptom of productive contributions. It rarely happens when you need it most, it almost never happens in equal proportion to what feels fair (to you or to others), but it happens.

The trap is hoping that a short-term focus on luck on demand will pay off instead.

Cars, houses and TVs

Compare 1960 to today:

Cars are a bit faster, a bit safer, higher in quality and a lot more expensive.

Houses are much bigger, a bit more efficient and enormously more expensive.

TVs on the other hand, are dramatically bigger, dramatically more efficient, dramatically more powerful, significantly more reliable and way cheaper. For $300, you can buy a 49 inch TV that would have cost a million dollars in 1960.

What happened?

Cars, with the exception of new electric drivetrains, are basically the same thing they were, except designed with computers and assembled by robots.

Houses, with the exception of some prefab edge cases, are still assembled by hand, on location, by skilled workers. And they went up in scale because real estate prices and income inequality went up even more.

But TVs–they made a leap. A leap from analog to digital, a leap from tubes to solid-state. Moore’s Law is at work on your television, but it’s been largely shut out of the two largest purchases most people make.

When you see computers and networks show up in an industry, it’s easy to predict what will happen next.

Awareness vs. experience

We are more aware than ever before. More aware of victims of violence, or a natural disaster. More aware of insane wealth or grinding poverty. It gets beamed to us, regularly.

We’re even more often exposed to social hijinks, sports stars or business moguls.

We’re aware that people run a marathon, or fast for a week. That they start a business or meditate every day. They know how to code, or to take pictures.

But there’s a difference between hearing about it and experiencing it.

There’s no excuse for being uninformed. But when it matters, there’s also no good reason for being inexperienced.

There’s often a piece of glass between us and the world as it’s delivered to us. That glass magnifies awareness, but it doesn’t have the same impact as experience does. It can’t.

Our awareness has been stretched wider than ever in history, but often at the cost of taking away a lifetime of experiences.

Obese dogs

Dogs aren’t supposed to have willpower, that’s what they have us for.

Marketing changes culture and culture changes us. And then we end up changing the world around us. Not just the dogs, but all of it.

It’s probably a mistake for us to wait until profit-driven corporations start to worry about side effects on their own. But the moment we start voting with our attention and our dollars, they’ll begin to respond.

We get what we pay for. And sometimes, we pay for what we get.

The only one who has heard all of it

…is you.

Jerry Garcia performed thousands of times, and he was the only one who heard every performance.

The same is true for the work you’ve created, the writing you’ve done, the noise in your head–you’re the only person who has heard every bit of it.

Tell us what we need to know. Not because you need to hear yourself repeat it, but because you believe we need to hear it.

Take your time and lay it out for us, without worrying about whether or not we’ve heard you say it before. We probably haven’t.

 

CREATORS: I hope you’ll check out the newest Akimbo workshop. I’ve been working on it for nearly a year. It’s built for people with a craft–for artists, writers, musicians and anyone who has something that they’d like to more effectively share with the world. It’s a modern writer’s workshop, for more than writers, and it happens worldwide.

Sign up for more info–we launch in two weeks.

As simple as necessary (but not simpler)

The convenience regime is in full force. You don’t often earn points by being baroque, rococo or byzantine.

Given a choice, people will simply move on to the next thing.

“As simple as necessary” is missed by many professionals who should call themselves designers, but don’t. Consider the 30 digit code that Microsoft wants me to type in… 30 digits? That’s more than a quintillion possible combinations. A lot more. Why?

Or notice the new user interface for the useful Audio Hijack program… It’s a two-dimensional grid with clickable icons. Why isn’t it simpler?

And “but not simpler” is missed, more and more often. Items that are dumbed down to the point where they are too simple to get useful work done. Where the power is hidden from the user, because the user can’t be trusted with it. Apple continues to make things simpler than they need to be, all in the name of short-term convenience.

The balancing act is real. It requires empathy, the empathy to realize that not everyone knows what you know and not everyone wants what you want.

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