28 March 2007

Drums + Mario - inspiring!

I was at work and one of my co-workers (Bill So) sent me a YouTube video link:

All I can say is I'm both heart broken and inspired at the same time. Inspired because it makes me want to improve and practice so much more. Heart broken because it's yet another thing I want to be able to do on the drums lol. Well all I can hope is that a few months/years later when I re-read this post, I'll be drumming better than even that :)


26 March 2007

Achieving the undefined goal

Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we're going, but we will know we want to be there.
-- Bruce Mau, "An Incompletel Manifesto for Growth"

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

-- Albert Einstein

Sometimes its good to just take the path with no goal in sight.

When was the last time you deliberately tried to achieve something you had no clue about? It kind of goes against the idea of setting a goal since very often you're told that one of the keys to good goal-setting is having a clearly defined target. With that clearly defined target, you then think about how to connect from where you are to where you want to be. Think of it as an equation. You have where you currently are and you have where you want to be. The unknown is how to get there, right?

What if we played around with the variables a bit? Let's say we know where we currently are and say we know the path to take, but we don't know the outcome. At this point you may be wondering if I'm suggesting that you just take a random path or something and the answer is yes. Imagine you took a random bus and decided to get off where ever the bus ended its route. You're basically going with the process with no goal in mind. You're bound to see something new and realize something you never noticed before. For example, the bus may take a different road you never considered or you may stumble upon some place you didn't even know existed! Voila! Instead of being bored of the same ol' same ol', you've discovered a freshness that you never would have if you had first thought of "Where do I want to go?" (again, asking yourself that only limits yourself to places that you already know about).

Taking Einstein's lovely quote as an example "Imagination is more important than knowledge". Knowledge is really what we know now while imagination is what we don't know or may only know later. And to imagine means we explore areas freely without necessarily expecting to achieve something. This way of thinking can be applied to any scenario, be it trying to design a new logo for a company or simply trying to come up with a new business strategy. Any lateral thinking book such as Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius or Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (Perennial Library) will say that the best and freshest ideas come when you try to connect to objects that are completely unrelated. They'll also tell you that you need to play around with your thinking techniques and one such method is to play around with the variables involved in your process. Algebra is finally useful!

So as of today, give it a shot. It's only the beginning of the week so there are a lot of opportunities to go with the path and see where it leads you. For all you know, you'll come across a better path to the same goal you've been achieving all this time. If you're playing an instrument, try a random style of music for a week and see what happens. If you're a designer, turn you logo upside down and work from there. If you work in an office, wear slippers while sitting at your desk and see if that makes a difference. If you're driving, listen to a different radio station. The key is to do something where you're not sure why you're doing it or what you're going to get out of it.

Oh, I just had to point this out. Do draw the line between achieving the undefined goal and achieving the stupid goal. Telling yourself to juggle knives to see what happens isn't exactly a wise idea. Juggling plastic knives on the other hand...

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19 March 2007

I can draw!

Yes, after years of saying "I wish I could draw as good as that" and trying oh-so-hard to just draw, I finally got myself to start formally learning how to draw. I'm currently using Fun with a Pencil and so far I must say I'm the proud owner of many cartoonish faces, all of whcih look much better than the crap I used to draw.
I'm really excited about this and hopefully through being able to draw properly, my overall aesthetic sense and appreciation for design will improve so that I no longer feel scared of a blank piece of paper but keep looking for one.

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16 March 2007

Clear fatigue and no more fluid for me

Let it be known that I am pretty tired and I admit I have failed to gather enough material to make a dignified minor post.

I guess the best thing that I can do now is try to map out everything I've learnt in the past 10 days, so let's see...
  • Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within by Kenny Werner: A book all about music and mastering it in a way you don't expect. I must say, as I mentioned in my previous post, there are some pretty good points here and ever since I started looking into a lot of productivity books, creativity books and spiritual books, I'm slowly noticing the connections between so many things. You're most productive when you're most relaxed, explains why in drumming, they keep telling you to avoid tension so you can get better and faster.
  • How to Mind Map by Tony Buzan: An average book not because of bad content but because I didn't feel like I gained a lot from it. One thing I did learn is to try to use more imagery in mind-maps. It makes sense. For example, the word "orange" will probably only make you think of the fruit, the color, juice, vitamin C and stuff along those lines. Draw a picture and you may notice the dots on the orange's skin and it may lead you to polka dots, which may lead you to a cloud, then to red lips, to a red dress, to women, etc.
  • The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity : I'm almost done with this, basically just a bunch of short essays by creative individuals working at Disney's Imagineers section. Some good points such as a quote by Chris Runco (Senior Concept Designer in the creative department) that states " 'Good enough' is the enemy of anything great." which I think I'm going to print out and frame or make my wallpaper on my computer :) Simple but inspiring.
And what next? Well so far this month's been quite hectic so my plan of moving from creative thinking to learning more about aesthetic design has not worked out so I'm going to stick to the topic and either move on to some Edward De Bono books or read through and implement techniques from Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition).

Who knows. Hopefully a month later when I read back on this post I'll be glad of my progress.

Speaking of a month later, I've decided to leave my current job at Fluid Design + Marketing because of personal reasons and well I've re-thought it after talking to my boss and I've decided I'm going to resign. There are many reasons all of which I can't properly state here but perhaps a mind-map might clear it out for me :)
Let's see how things go after the end of April, I'm confident in exploring my potential, and building my future one brick at a time :)

Good luck to me (again) yay!

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09 March 2007

Effortless Mastery

Ahh, finally a post for the musician side of me. I've been reading Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within and I guess a bit of me is still finding it hard to accept some of the things the author talks about. However, there's a part of me that feels that he makes a lot of...spiritual sense.

The author keeps talking about how you are a master when it requires almost no effort/skill to do something. That's quite true, how often do we stop to think about how good we are at breathing? We barely notice breathing to even see how freaking good we've gotten at it. In many ways, now that I look at life this way, I've noticed the moment you get good at something, you often feel you're not that good perhaps because you don't need to put in that much effort and you find something else that does require all that effort and so what you do know now feels so weak compared to that challenging stuff. For example, 1 year ago I could barely do double strokes (playing on the drum pad, each hand hits the pad twice in succession, in other words, you have your right hand (R) and left hand (L) and so you play RRLLRRLLRRLLRRLL but it has to stay even), today I won't say I'm really good but at least I am quite smooth and it doesn't require me to keep thinking of my hands playing correctly.

I think I'm going to give the authors techniques of practicing a try and see what happens. I kind of want to just play drums but I think what I'll do it I'll dedicate time to tap into that realm of effortlessness and see how that works out for me. The worst that could happen is that I lose a month's worth of practice. Bleh :P

If anyone's read that book or experienced what the author talked about, that space he mentions, do share it with me because I'm still not 100% convinced about it since in my mind I'm thinking "go practice that exercise!!!".

Once again, good luck to me in yet another thing I want to do. Speaking of good luck to myself, I must say I'm quite impressed with my ability to not only maintain but properly post entries on this blog. And speaking of posting entries, I was featured on lifehack.org! Wahoo!! Work hard to be lazy! (Let's ignore the fact that I sent them my post to see if they're interested in printing it on their website :P)

As Anthony Robbins loves to say, Live with passions!

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06 March 2007

Work hard to be lazy

I've always been a big fan of smart lazy people not because I admired their ability to do nothing but I admired their ability to do nothing but still get things done.

Over time, I developed a mentality that I wanted to work hard to be as lazy (read free) as I could without having to sacrifice my work and its quality. Basically, I wanted to accomplish 48 hours worth of work in 24 hours time!

In the book Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, one of the creativity techniques the author suggested was to use a paradox to stimulate new ideas and this immediately reminded me of the joke I used to tell co-workers that I wanted to work hard to be lazy. Perhaps you should give it a shot. Let me explain.

Working hard to be lazy basically means investing the extra effort (working hard) at first so that it will pay off in the long run (be lazy). I've broken down the process I took to achieve the lazy state I can be in guilty-free.

Re-evaluate your work processes
The lazy man will try to accomplish 2 hours worth of work in 1 hour's time but sometimes at the expense of the work's quality.
Think of it as efficiency = quality/time taken (referencing speed = distance/over). If the time taken is reduced, either the job's quality has to be lowered or the efficiency must be increased. Efficiency really relates to the work process. So in order to keep the quality the same and reduce the time taken, the work process must be changed. To do so requires a re-evaluation of your work processes.
Just because you
want to do more doesn't mean you can do more. The saying when there's a will, there's a way only goes so far as to motivate you to start moving, you need to grease your wheels to let that momentum flow smoothly. Many people fall into the trap of getting comfortable with their process and never want to change. That's like a baby realizing he can travel by not crawling and so never sees the necessity of walking.
Take an hour and think of it as investment, to really analyze how you work. For designers like myself it may be how you approach design, do you just dive in and create some visuals? Or do you think about the objective you want to achieve first (eg. create a design that appeals to the young crowd)?
In Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits is to
begin with the end in mind. I am a firm believer of the value of pre-production as it gives me a clear goal of what I aim to achieve and so instead of just doing for the sake of getting it done, I'm doing for the sake of achieving a clear objective.

Don't repeat yourself
After evaluating what you do, you may have some ideas of what you want to improve or modify. Break it down to its core. For example, when I was re-evaluating myself, I realized I was doing a lot of repetitive tasks in my work. I'm a designer slash programmer, so very often jobs may overlap each other in functionality and so I'd find myself sometimes recreating the same function I did before simply because I couldn't be bothered to try to understand my code from a previos project. I'd waste good amounts of time doing this when all I really needed was perhaps a code library so whenever I needed a certain function, I'd have it ready-made in my library.
David Allen mentions in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
that you shouldn't have to think about a thought more than once because then you're wasting your efforts. I agree, which is why after you evaluate your work processes, eliminate duplications in whatever you do or automate it after you do it once. For example, instead of checking your mail by having to click on the Check mail button, find a way to automate it.

Try a new process
Be open to completely changing the way you work. You can't expect to become more productive unless you pay a price at first. So bear with me and give this a shot. In my pursuit for ultimate productivity, I've changed from analog tools to digital tools. I tried different online tools such as Remember the Milk and 30 Boxes (both are free) and they worked for me as a beginning GTD follower, but over time my demands grew and currently, I'm giving My Life Organized a whirl and so far I'm loving it because it is much, much faster than the online tools I used to use so I don't end up wasting more time waiting for a page to load and tell me what I need to do (which kind of used to discourage me from relying on the tool in the first place).

Refine yourself
By refining yourself I mean going through this work hard to be lazy process in iterations. Try a new process, if that doesn't help as much as you hoped, try another process. The worst thing that could happen is that you don't find any improvement in your work process and go back to your original process and just work hard. Did you lose anything? You may say the time you spent searching, but think about it, how much have you gained? Right now in theory it may not seem much, but give this a shot and come back to this 1 week later and ask yourself what you gained. If not a new process, I guarantee you'll have become more open-minded to trying new things or at least created the desire to improve :).

So what benefits did I personally get from this?
Basically, it isn't so much that I want to achieve more with less effort, but I now hunger to improve the way I work because I know I can work less and get more. Now that I have a full-time job, I only have at most 5 hours a day where I can do what I want before I have to hit the sack. In that time, I want to achieve nothing less than 8 hours worth of stuff and so I keep trying to get myself to figure out ways to either automate or streamline. For example, for all you firefox users, you may be familiar with its ability to bookmark a set of tabs into one category. Using that, you can come home from work, fire-up that set of bookmarks and go to the toilet or fill that glass of water. Instead of sitting at my computer waiting for the web pages to load, use that time to do a quick job, a minimum of 1 minute saved. Later I may start to burn a DVD and since it takes around 10 minutes, I go for a shower during that time.
In thinking that way, I found that my work towards achieving laziness gives me energy that doesn't feel like forced effort but more like freely chosen effort.
It's been a while since I began my journey to achieving ultimate laziness and I find myself working harder and harder at it but loving it even more as things fall into place.

Work hard to be lazy, yes, it sounds stupid but doesn't it spark a few weird ideas and thoughts when you think that way? Instead of trying to work hard because you need to achieve me, twist the mentality and tell yourself you're working hard so you don't have to (eventually :P).

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03 March 2007

Designers' Saturday 2007

Poof, what a long day! Today was Hong Kong's annual Designers' Saturday and it was quite exciting I must say especially since the company I work in, Fluid was a part of it so I got to feel all special welcoming guests in and talking to them about what I do. At around 1pm, I got to head out to all the other studios and I got to learn all about what they do as well as how their offices look. It ranges from the cozy, to the hip, to the really grand and high-class.

So far there are a few general things I learnt:
  • If you got it, flaunt it. Almost everyone had stuff on display, showcasing their biggest clients. On top of that, almost everyone showcased their huge library of design resources and books, usually near the entrances.
  • Be friendly. Everyone was really nice, willing to answer questions and give advice. The only thing I didn't like was when people were standing around being overly-friendly. What I mean is when people are standing to greet you at the lift to say "hi, welcome!" it made me felt like I was in a clothes store where all I wanted was to look around and this annoying salesperson kept bugging me.
  • Normal neat and tidy. What I really liked was that many studios had their staff's desks in such a way I'd never suspect they purposely made it neat and tidy. I'm not doubting that they at least reduced the messiness, but compared to what my company did (we pretty much hid everything away other than our monitors, keyboard and mouse), they were a lot more honest.
  • Inspiring view or area. Some places either had a little (and some big) outdoor area (I'm guessing for designers going through a mental block and smokers to escape) but usually featured some sort of lounging area. I don't know how free they are with allowing their staff to take it easy and lounge and read books, but whatever it is, at least they have a sofa :)
  • Leaving you a memory. Fluid gave out coasters, Landor gave out pirated versions of the Designers' Saturday mascot (basically, they made their own dog and made it into a sticker sheet, not very classy if you ask me :\), Clifton Leung Designer Workshop gave out shitty Siemens mugs with their stickers on it and China Stylus (which is also Atomic Sushi) gave out posters and some really cool and hip stickers.
If you ask me, I was most excited when I visited China Stylus because they do urban art and boy did I have a good talk with them :) I got some contact information to get in touch with people interesting in exploring Hong Kong's urban art scene and hopefully I'll be able to help out and learn from all of them :) Now all I have to do is follow through. I'll probably post another entry when I follow through on that and get some sort of response so let's stay on track for now.

All in all, today was well worth it and I shall leave you with a set of pictures for you to enjoy along with captions explaining them :) Please feel free to share your comments about your experience as well. Forgive me for the noisy images (you designers should know what I mean, but basically I'm saying all the yucky graininess in the images) and some blurriness, I didn't want to use Flash or a tripod while inside the studios.

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Finished Cracking Creativity

I know, I know, I said every 10 days and it's not yet the 10th day. But I've been itching to write entries here and felt it was just stupid to stop myself because it wasn't time. I'm going to change the rules a bit, every 10 days is the bare minimum I should have one meaningful entry (as in "oh, went to the park, yay, bye" entries don't count) but otherwise I'm free to empty my mind and feelings here all I want :).

So I finally finished Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius and I'm still going "wow" about it. Seriously, I strongly recommend anyone read it, really, really good book :) It's totally opened up my mind about creativity and how it's really not that mysterious after all. To be honest, it's really helped me see the world differently and all I can say is boy oh boy do I need to re-discover a lot of things :P

I've moved onto my next book I borrowed from work called A Designer's Research Manual: Succeed in Design by Knowing Your Clients and What They Really Need (Design Field Guide), so far read till page 30 and I'm kind of "meh" about it. I mean I've never been a big Rockport Publishing fan because I feel their books are beautiful and stuff, but from a knowledge-delivery point of view, they always seem to be lacking. Perhaps it's their strategy to keep you wanting to come back for more, feeling like you need to read more and more, or they just have bad authors or I'm just an unlucky guy reading all the worst books of the lot.... who knows.

It's Designer's Saturday tomorrow and I'm half and half excited. Part of me really just wishes I had Saturday off and the other half really wants to run around to all those design studios and check out what they're like and learn from them. Heck, maybe it'll even give me some ideas on how to re-design my room :)

Well it's 2am and I'm about to hit the sack and listen to some soothing Brainsync Total Relaxation sounds while doing some breathing exercises and if I still have the energy, maybe read a bit more of that book or just watch some comedy. Yes, I'm confused right now.