The Glue Factory

I get a little tired of all the talk about the next generation. They are going to be world changers. They matter more than the rest of us. They will fix what is unfixable.

The adoption of this language, primarily heard in religious communities, shows we have given up and put our very present reality into the hands of kids. We live vicariously through the lives of the youth because we have failed to realize a life worth living for ourselves and others. We place a tremendous amount of pressure on the lives of kids to become adults sooner, when what they really need is time to be kids and not take life seriously.

However, there is a deeper problem. The current leaders have decided to skip a generation and give the blessing of power and control to their grandchildren, not their children. Is it because they have failed miserably in raising their own children and want to make up for it in the lives of their grandchildren? Or is it about control and manipulation?

I am not ready to pass off my responsibilities to the next generation. I may not have been passed the torch from the leadership around me, but I have the desire and passion to attempt to make the world a better place. I may not be a world changer in the eyes of the generation in charge, but the world is often changed by the unexpected forces no one sees coming.

I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to fix today. I don’t want to wait five years for the world to be changed by the youth. Change starts today with my own life, with the lives of my friends and family, and with the fire that burns deep within me.

I’m not ready to go to the glue factory, how about you?


After The Peak posted an article about George Lucas hinting at Indiana Jones 5, specifically how he is currently searching for the film’s MacGuffin (think Ark of the Covenant, magic rocks, the holy grail, and crystal skulls).

I would consider myself an avid Indiana Jones fan.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was an impressionable film growing up and for a time I wanted to be an archeologist until I realized archeology was nothing like the Indiana Jones films.  I learned about how disappointing reality can be compared to the magic of Hollywood thanks to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I remember traveling to Petra, Jordan where a few scenes of Last Crusade were filmed.  Excited to see the facade of “The Treasury” and anxious to get inside to the cavernous interiors where “only the penitent man shall pass,” I climbed the stairs and entered a small, completely boxed-in room.  I guess I wasn’t penitent enough.

Fast forward through the disappointment which was Crystal Skull and ask the question:  What will you do after your career peaks?

A lot of film directors have peaked, Lucas being one of them, Spielberg another.  They changed the way movies were made early in their careers, but now they release movies that make audiences shake their collective heads and wonder, “They thought that was a good idea?”

In addition to really bad ideas, some directors hang onto their past work, not willing to let the films speak for themselves in the context of film history.  Okay George, we get it, you can make a movie from the 70’s look like every decade since.  Let it go buddy.  Star Wars is a good film.  It’s not perfect, but it was groundbreaking and cutting edge in the 70’s, and the fact that it singlehandedly influenced modern cinema should say something.

A lot of creative professionals start their careers hungry to change the world.  Some find success by experimenting, asking questions, and never letting the answers coax them into a career-oriented laziness.  Others find success and lose touch with reality over time as they believe the press clippings regarding the greatness of “__________.”

Everyone has the potential to be someone.  However, they also have the ability to know when enough is enough, hang up the towel, and try something new.

What are you going to do when your career peaks?  Will you look at what you have done and see how you can repurpose it for a new audience or will you search for something new that echoes deep within your soul?

Perhaps the MacGuffin eluding Lucas and Spielberg is retirement.

Rants Short and Sweet

The Psychology of Group Photography

Today I received a “Christmas Greetings” letter from a beloved organization. On the front was a group photo of the employees, spread out across several rows of chairs. After looking at the photo for a minute, I thought, “What is this image saying to me? Surely, they didn’t mean it to come across the way I am taking it, right?”

There is an underlying psychology to group photography.

When there is physical distance between two or more people, a viewer may naturally think there is emotional and relational distance as well. Multiple the effect depending on the size of the organization and the amount of distance between subjects, and the result may be an unintended psychological response of, “Whoa, how do they function? I hope they like each other more than the photo suggests.”

The art of group photography isn’t just about making a pretty, hip, or technically-perfect picture.

It’s more than making sure everyone is smiling and no one blinked. It’s about accurately conveying the vibe of a group, taking into account the multitude of ways composition affects the psychology of an image.

Now, if this is the feeling the photographer was going for, then job well done.

If not, the next time you want to be hip with a group photo, make sure you know what your composition will tell your customers about the psychology of your organization.


The Self-Importance Revolution

“A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures! Do any of our facebook fans use any of the NIKKOR lenses? Which is your favorite and what types of situations do you use it for?” – Nikon, Posted on their Facebook page.

Imagine the backlash against this seemingly innocent paragraph. Over 2,900 comments ranging from “CALL NIKON and tell them you don’t appreciate being told by them that your photography is crap because you use another brand!” to “and the eye he/she has for spotting a moment.” Don’t forget: “Yeah, strange. I have taken awesome pics with a 1megapixel webcam. Meh Nikon, meh.” and “Why is everyone overacting? We all have a choice to go with whichever brand we choose. If you don’t like this post, then it’s your choice whether you want to stick with Nikon products or not. I personally don’t care that they posted this. It doesn’t change my mind about how I feel about my Nikon equipment.”

My first thought is simple: People, don’t be so sensitive, it’s just marketing.

Nikon can say whatever they want. They have been around since 1917. That’s almost 100 years. That doesn’t give them the right to take advantage of people, but truthfully, their statement above is just marketing. It may not be effective as witnessed by the comments, but guess what, it did generate buzz and interest and we all played a part in it.

Truth? Good equipment can make a better photographer. Yes, you can use crappy equipment and produce great work, but the reality is, good equipment matters. Everyone knows this, as our buying behavior indicates, they just don’t like to be reminded by corporations that benefit from our habits.

All of this makes me realize the world that we live in. The world of social media, the age of the ever-present individually collective opinion. Social media is strange. On one hand, you are connected with amazing people, conversing about new ways to do old and new things. The systems, networks and ideas are ever-present. They can’t be turned off or killed by a master switch. They are built around people, and because of that, the collective voice of the people has more power than the establishment. I would even go so far as to say that there is more untapped power and potential in the use of social media than any other form of collective effort including voting.

However, one of the drawbacks to social media is that we have inadvertently created a problem: Self-importance.

Our opinions of ourselves have become grossly exaggerated and that is evident in our behavior with companies or individuals that don’t follow the unspoken rules of engagement in the social media world. We attack, ridicule and attempt to hurt their position in the market.

It is one thing to use social media to attack the establishment, especially in countries where dictators use whatever means to control their people. It is another thing to create fictional struggles that don’t affect the majority of people. Most people won’t care that Nikon made the statement above. Most people will go about their day unaffected by the statement above. In fact, once I am done writing this post, I’ll pack up my Nikon camera and go to my photo shoot.

But if there is one thing that I have learned in the world of social: With systems that are built for the people and by the people, you are going to have an increasing amount of people-related problems. Things can and will get messy. We are prone not to forget the injustices of others when they make a mistake. We shine a light on those that do it wrong in order to attempt a reaction. We become the Judge Dredd’s of the social world (Judge, Jury and Executioner), elevating our self-importance that much more.

So, how do we fight in the self-importance revolution? Realize that people are at the core of this struggle. And the truth is that people are fragile, fragmented and in need of something greater than themselves. We can give people validation, but we also need to let them know that it’s not all about them.


Who Do You Listen To?

There are a lot of voices out there.

Every one has an opinion.

Some opinions are built around knowledge.

Few are centered around wisdom.

A lot of opinions are merely lies that we believe or that we tell ourselves.

So, who do you listen to?


I’m A Liar, I’m Not Fair, Most Certainly Not Balanced, But Doesn’t That Make Me Interesting?

I am a liar. I lie for many reasons: I want to be liked, I want to get my way, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of other people. Lying has become a cultural norm defined as political correctness or societal labels such as fair, balanced, objective and informative. But, what if all of this focus on objectivity, fair and balanced information only reveals the truth: That we are all biased, subjective and keen on getting exactly what we want, when we want it?

In church this morning, the visiting pastor declared that a large percentage of statistics can be manipulated. There is even a book about lying with statistics appropriately called How To Lie With Statistics. What are the implications of our love affair with the manipulation of numbers for our own benefit? First, it emphasizes that we are quick to lie as opposed to speaking truth. We use the manipulation of statistics to prove everything from why kids should be indoctrinated to why our government functions best in certain capacities versus others. Statistics are also used to justify individual and collective behavior across the spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds.

How often do we resort to the use of numbers to prove our point? In an age of real-time information and sophisticated graphic design, we have gone beyond simple line graphs and percentages to the design and production of slick and beautiful visual representations: The art of quantitative analysis that makes Edward Tufte excited to get out of bed in the morning.

Numbers are the life-blood of our society. But as the crash of our economy has proven, numbers are merely a facade to a much deeper problem: We are selfish and focused on lying not only to others, but to ourselves.

In addition to being a liar, I am not fair and I am most certainly not balanced. Fairness implies a sense that I am concerned with the well-being of everyone, that I desire the views of everyone to be represented. However, I am too focused on having my thoughts and opinions validated through the words and deeds of like-minded people. In order to be fair, one must appreciate and welcome the opposing view in a safe and neutral environment. Which leads me to ask the question, does such a safe and neutral environment exist or will there always be an element of danger when we try to be fair and balanced truth-tellers?

Balance is an intriguing concept. It is tempting to think that in order to be fair, one must only seek the views that oppose their own in order to learn, grow and dialogue. But in order to be balanced as a human being and to have a balanced worldview, affirming and challenging relationships need to be daily fostered and nurtured. Is it possible to have relationships that are both nurturing in our beliefs and ideals, but also challenging in how we approach those that are completely opposite to us? Or will we constantly live in a state of “us versus them?”

In the confessional spirit of this blog post, I am challenged to learn how to better tell the truth. I strive to be more fair and balanced in my relationships. Most importantly, I want to be a little less “interesting” in the eyes of others and a little more in tune with the real needs of the community and sometimes that is downright messy, time-consuming and painful. In the midst of the mess, that is where we find true beauty, not manufactured out of a safe and secure surplus, but born out of a deep-rooted need for what is and isn’t there.



It Takes How Long?

I am the quintessential American: I want what I want, immediately. I’m not willing to wait, I demand instantaneous results, and anything worth doing should be able to be completed in one sitting. Recently, reality struck, much like a 2×4 to the head, and said, “Chris, if you want to accomplish something of value in your life, it’s going to take a long time. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, so stop listening to the messages of culture and get to work.”

The Symptom(s)

It’s easy to become prey to an over-eager market that is selling widgets that no one needs. The messages of convenience and life-changing power are often packaged in the guise of oversimplification. Just do this one thing, buy this one product, pop this pill, say these magic words and voila! You will immediately have a shrinking waist, growing “popularity,” success, fortune, fame, more followers on Twitter, less junk mail in your inbox, more business than you’ll know what to do with, favor and a full head of hair. Not to mention that the ladies will find you more attractive.

We have become suckers for a cultural pyramid scheme and we ignorantly thank the Founding Fathers of America because of their foresight and wisdom in framing these very pursuits of convenience in the United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Oh wait, it’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” nothing to do with immediacy or convenience. I digress.

Sadly enough, what we don’t realize is that the very people coming up with these instant-just-add-water products and solutions take a lot of time to research and develop something that will get them rich quick. So, does that mean that they are liars, choosing to perpetuate a cultural attitude of dependency on the drug of convenience and microwaveable life? Or do we finally shift the blame from those that dupe the public to those that allow themselves to be taken advantage of?

The Cure(s)

There are a myriad of ways to fight the infection that is immediacy. Here are my five favorite, at the moment:

  1. Realize that anything worth doing will take twice as long to finish as you think. Probably even three times as long. So, don’t think you’re going to launch your new career in thirty days or get the book you’ve been writing for the past year done tomorrow.
  2. Before you put a TV dinner in the microwave or go through the drive-through at the nearest fast food restaurant, realize that a typical healthy dinner takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes to plan and cook. In the time that it takes to plan and cook dinner, you can have a conversation with your spouse or even get an episode of The Daily Show out of the way.
  3. Before you demand immediate results from others, ask yourself what your response would be if they wanted immediate results from you. You’d change your tune faster than it takes to say the phrase: “Can I have that tomorrow?”
  4. Understand that the only sustainable reality in life is that anything worth doing takes time. Listening to a friend share about a difficult divorce should not be scheduled for 30 minutes in your calendar, it’s going to take a lot more time, especially if you are going to listen. Figuring out who you are and what you want to do is going to take your whole life, so get used to not knowing. It has taken me 32 years to figure out that I want to be a documentary filmmaker, a photographer, a writer and a speaker. It’s taken me six years to finally get that a financially-rewarding business is still a few years out. So, what do you do with this? Well…
  5. Live within your means. Relying on credit and leveraging your future based on the present only gets you deeper into debt. Just look at our country…or your own financial situation.

It’s comforting to have learned this lesson this week, but the honest truth is that while it is fresh in my mind today, I will eventually forget that anything worth doing is going to take a significant portion of time. I’ll probably conveniently forget around the time a new camera is released or I am pressured by client expectations. But until then, I am resolved to give myself a break, breathe and work on getting the next item crossed off my to-do list.

With that, done. One more thing crossed off today. Success!


Are Those Church Bells Or A Technology-Driven Death Knell?

There may be a point in this post, but chances are it will probably just be a literary exercise akin to passing gas: relieving built-up pressure, emitting a slight smell depending upon what I just consumed, followed by a momentary sense of embarrassment.

I have seen a lot of apocalyptic questions in the social media streams related to the validity and longevity of blogs and books. With Borders announcing the closing of the rest of their stores and the rise of e-book readers and the associated influx of e-books being released, people are tolling the bells letting everyone know that print is dead. However, is print dead or is it merely the “not dead yet” guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail—not quite dead, but bludgeoned to death for the sake of convenience and modernity? Are we locked in a societal war upon books and the knowledge therein contained? Or are we simply striving to find and build new ways to expressively communicate the body of knowledge and wisdom that we collect over the span of a lifetime?

We live in a glut of information that effectively feeds the fire of attention deficits and procrastination. In our rush to learn everything that we can in a given moment, we communicate quicker, briefer, seeking to be more and more succinct. In the push for an ability to consume more “stuff” faster and faster, books gave way to articles. The Internet enabled anyone to self-publish blogs, and the addiction to growing our numbers of readers pushed many of us to sacrifice well-structured content for the sake of well-formatted “search engine-ese,” allowing more people to find, like and share our words. Blogs became more about salacious headlines and keywords, eventually pruning the headline down to a shortened link that summed up the entire post in a URL. Whether our content is read and analyzed no longer matters in today’s world of digital information. The modern-day Patrick Henry espouses, “Give me retweet, or give me death.”

With a disregard for in-depth analysis and information, blogs have been declared dead. But the question of whether blogs are dead or not, is a non-issue because it is not about whether people are reading your blog, but why they aren’t reading your blog. The question should really be, “are people leaving your blog because you have a poor understanding and grasp of grammar, literacy, and the expression of meaningful thoughts and ideas?”

Most of the blogs that I read, even my own at times, are wrought with typos, grammatical errors, malformed and unexpanded theses, and distaste for language. We try to simplify our words, without realizing that there is power in the words that we use: to build people up, tear down faulty ideology and rhetoric, and give people hope for a literate future. But as long as we rush to get our post done for the day, we sacrifice quality for completion, turning people away by the arrogance of our ignorance.

I’m all for communicating clearly and succinctly, as I daily strive to formulate and express meaningful thoughts and conclusions. I try to keep my posts around 500 words, primarily because anything longer goes beyond my time allotment for writing and proofing what I write. But as long as we sacrifice critical thinking for entertainment and maximum “retweetability”—the art of writing tweets that are less than 100 characters enabling others to retweet with their own comments attached—we run the risk of becoming an illiterate culture, transforming a long-standing tradition of history and knowledge into a post-modern vat of lard and lunacy.


Whose Fault Is It?

Two conversations today have been centered around the issue of our country’s debt problem, leading me to ask the question:  Whose fault is it?

My answer to that is simple. It doesn’t matter.

As long as we are trying to “correctly” place blame, problems will continue to go unsolved.

As long as we are holding strong to what we want, we will never see what needs to be done, for the sake of everyone else.

Short-term solutions will never fix long-term problems.

If we know what the fix to a given problem is and we don’t apply the solution because it doesn’t adhere to our political agenda, we are guilty of betraying our country, which is worse than betraying the ideology of a political party.

If you are more concerned with getting re-elected than doing your job, what will happen when you don’t have a job because you were too busy playing the fiddle while Rome burned?

Will it take the collapse of the global economy to get politicians to finally realize that they have lost all reason, logic and have betrayed every single person in the world, not just America?

If you want to gamble, go to Vegas with your own money. I won’t need to know if you won or lost, but if you do win, be sure to file the IRS W-2G form so that we can make sure you are feeding the government meter. But if you pretend that there is no meter, or that it doesn’t apply to you, guess what? I have just the job for you.



Where Are The Voices Of My Generation?

Initially, this was going to be a rant, I even have it marked as a rant, but with time and reflection a rant becomes something else:  a message and a call to action.

To the people of Generation X:

Where are your voices? Those speaking out against the concerns of the present, helping to discern the path from our past, taking the reigns from a dying generation to lead our country and our world into a better place? Will your voices be ready and refined when it is time to speak? Or will you still be sitting on the sidelines waiting for validation, hoping for an invitation to communicate, speak, write, lead and guide the world into the future?

Our voice is timid, shy, weak and veiled behind a mask:  a label bestowed by our parents as Generation X. We are viewed as slackers, bums, misfits and losers unsure of our place in the world. Some of us are trying to make a difference, but for the most part, we have accepted and daily live with the reality that we have been passed over in favor of those born after us. We accept less, demand nothing, expect everything, and hope for a miracle in the form of a silver spoon that will never come.

It is time to wake up and accept our birthright as free citizens. It’s going to take hard work. Most importantly, it’s going to take a determined and focused desire to fight our greatest fears:  first, that if we succeed, we will become our parents, and second, that if we fail, we won’t matter. Regardless of those fears, it’s time to hear the call and begin to answer the questions that are being asked of us.

Are you searching for truth? Are you looking to the past in order to understand our collective potential? Are you critically thinking about the actions of your present, and the impact they have on the future? Are you lost in haze of despair, unable to see the value and weight of your voice?

Are you willing to work hard? To sacrifice your wants for the needs of others? To develop a steady vision and devotion towards positively impacting our communities and our nation for the greater, and common, good?

Are you asking questions? Are you demanding answers? Are you broadening your horizons? Searching for understanding and meaning, grasping for the knowledge that every action has a natural consequence?

Are you wanting to use technology to build communities or to capitalize on the obsession and addiction for the newest and shiniest gadget? Are you wanting to understand the impact that social technologies have on our lives, the good and the bad, or are you simply doing your duty in creating a virtual world of segregation, based not on your true and authentic identity, but on the ideal version of you:  an artificial and universally “liked” avatar?

Are you wanting to understand why you like something, instead of mindlessly pressing a button that informs the world about your likes? Do you force yourself to speak in the modern 140 character “sound bite” or do you long for something with depth, meaning and context?

Are you concerned about whether your voice matters? If your voice will change the course of your life and the lives of others? How do you envision getting people to listen to what you have to say, when the world is full of distractions and noises?

Do you communicate with an over-arching search for the truth? Do you even care about the truth? Or are you willing to forsake the truth for a few bucks and pats on the back from the same men and women that sold the truth in order to pay for their pensions?

We are being handed a world that has been shaped in the image of an idol, using the chisel of lies, statistics, and false promises. We have been forced into a famine of inaction and paralysis, but the time to act is at hand.

It’s time to get ready to lead and undergo the necessary metamorphosis from casual observers to willing participants. To be tempered and cast, forged and created into a generation of leaders and visionaries that are willing to make changes to a broken system. It’s time to balance the lust for real-time information with the understanding that history is more than what happened today, it’s what the events of today mean for the future.

Having a voice matters, but if you only use it to say what others are already saying, without adding your opinion and view, then hope is lost. We need to learn that the message is greater than the tools that forge that message. But as long as we silence our voices, consume what is handed to us, and never speak, then change is not possible.

Where are the voices of my generation? I hope they are out there, being built up and trained, because if they aren’t, I fear for the future.