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GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

At a party recently, a bunch of old guys – artists, tinkerers and generally handy dudes of a certain age – were reminiscing about high school shop class.

They found it amazing that forty and fifty years ago it was not considered unusual for a bunch of silly-assed, overly amped kids to be dealing with hands-on fooling around using massive, old, industrial-strength power tools.

In fact, they agreed, shop class was the go-to class for all the worker-dude guys who were not academically inclined.

All those assorted spinning wheels, sharp cutting edges, power cords, burning and smoking things, flying sparks, mounds of debris and such were a natural part of the shop class landscape.

jim-wood-turning
“Jim’s Wood Turning” by William Warby via Flickr [CC BY-21.0]
Every one of the guys remembered that their shop teacher was missing at least a couple of fingers.  Every one of them remembered the safety lectures.

Mostly, though, they remembered how shop class got them fascinated with the joy of Making Something.  Collectively they mourned the passing of this rite of passage.

IT’S A-L-I-V-E!!!

Those old dudes were sounding “Taps” too early, it seems.  The joy of Making has taken the world by storm again.  It’s even got its own Movement now.  Do-It-Yourself lives!

This “Maker Movement” is a convergence of traditional artisans, computer hackers, independent inventors, designers, tinkerers and other (often manic) crafty sorts who toil away in their cluttered workrooms and closet-offices making cool stuff that sometimes solve everyday problems, big and small, and sometimes is just for fun.

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“Time to Clean Up the Workbench” by Kent Landerholm via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The first stirrings of the Movement in 2005 was spurred on by the vision and enthusiasm of the editors of Make: magazine, a publication that was born out of founder Dale Dougherty’s conviction that Making is a very good thing to do.

Before the magazine was a year old, it had become a nexus and a gathering place for a tech-influenced, grassroots, DIY community that spread and sprawled out like a kudzu vine.  The magazine dubbed  them “Makers.”

“I think the magic of [the magazine] was simply that we connected a lot of different groups that were making things but saw themselves as doing something separate,” Dougherty has said.

According to him, the artisans and artists saw themselves as different than the people who do robotics or electronics.  There was a sense of disconnection among all of these creative folks.  A knitter, a musician and a guy who builds a drone might not be able to feel like they belong to the same tribe, for example.

“To some degree calling them all makers kind of allowed for a flourishing of some different people coming together and seeing commonalities,” he said.

MAKE:  MAKER FAIRES

The Makers also spurred the magazine editors on to put together the first Maker Faire, a festival celebrating the innovation and self-reliance of the folks who do-it-yourself.

The first Maker Faire happened in San Mateo, about 20 miles from San Francisco.  It was billed as the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.”

The idea was to get all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and show what they were making and share what they were learning with other people.  It was also all about experimenting, playing, and having fun connecting with other people.

The first Faire was a grand success, stirring the imaginations of jaded consumers numbed by the overabundance of generic, mass-produced goods.  It spawned what has since became a worldwide network of fancy flagship Faires in major cities that involve thousands of people as well as more down-home, independently produced mini-faires.

At these events, curious participants of all ages can experience the inventions of the Makers firsthand.  The spectators are invited to join in the parade and fun is had by all.

This 2012 YouTube video, “Inspiring a Maker Movement” was published by CNN and features Dale Dougherty talking about the very fundamental human need to make stuff.  You’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be at a Maker Faire.

As Dougherty points out, it isn’t all high-tech, although 3D printers, digital manufacturing, drones and robots are all glittery highlights at the big international Faires.   New forms of arts, entertainment, crafts, food experiments, and every other kind of human creativity is fodder for exploration.

  • You can learn to build your own smartphone or make your own toys.
  • You might be able to print out a pair of shoes.
  • Maybe you’ll make your own jewelry or a handbag for mom or learn how to cook up something new.
  • You might learn how to crochet.
  • You might even learn how to home-automate your house with just a few simple measures.
  • You could learn how to pickle, can, and preserve fruits and vegetables and check out the latest advances in bee-keeping, composting and growing your own food.
  • You might learn how to write better instructions.

Checking out all that’s new in the world of making things could lead you to the start of a new interest, hobby or vocation.

At the Faires, open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology rule.  The strategy is to provide interested people with the right tools and the inspiration and opportunity to use them.  Creativity and a lot of imagination-sparking ensues.

to check out the Faire schedules and locations. It truly is mind-boggling!

MAKE:  BUSINESS

Makers make stuff.  They want to know how they can do this thing or that.  They want to know how other people have solved a problem they are facing.

Magazines (like Make: magazine) as well as books, podcasts and YouTube videos for do-it-yourselfers have grown exponentially as more and more people become interested in being a Maker of one sort or another.

Hobbyists, enthusiasts, and those who’ve gained a certain mastery in some form of Making might be encouraged to give demonstrations, classes or workshops that attract others who want to explore new ways of Making too.

mike-soroka-demonstrates-glassblowing
“Mike Soroka demonstrates glassworking ” (Artisan’s Asylum Open House, 2012) by Chris Devers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Then there are the MakerSpaces that welcome a diverse group of builders, hackers, and hobbyists who share resources and knowledge.  Hundreds have cropped up in the past decade or so in the United States.

Some are housed in existing community centers such as libraries, museums or youth centers.  Others are sponsored by companies and organizations at conference centers.  All of them focus on the love of Making.

This YouTube video put together by TheMakerSpace earlier this year explains further:

MakerSpaces have taken off in all kinds of directions.  There are community-based spaces, spaces for kids, and spaces for explorers of all kinds.


maker-space-ship
“Maker[Space]Ship” by San Jose Public Library via Flickr [CC BY-SA-2.0]

makers-space
“makers space” by jenny cu via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

makers-space
“Makers + Spaces” by Sharon Vanderkaay via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Here’s another YouTube video, by Intel (yes, those guys) showing off their “Ultimate MakerSpace,” at the company’s Intel Developer Forum in 2014.


Both the dedicated and dabbler Makers have fueled the growth of companies that produce the materials and tools that people use to make (or fix) stuff.  Sales of arts and crafts supplies and parts for all kinds of machines and electronic equipment are booming as well.

People who get involved in Making often find something that they feel is worth exploring further, that gives them great pleasure.  Some of them turn their new-found passion into a life-long hobby.  Others become entrepreneurial and turn their creations into a business of their own.

Besides distributing their creations to traditional brick-and-mortar stores or participating in venues like street fairs and festivals, many Makers sell their creations online to people all over the world by making their own websites or by using Craigslist, eBay, or Etsy to sell their own cool stuff.

The connections just keep multiplying.

More than one observer of economic and business trends have commented on the Maker Movement.  It has gotten wide and deep.

The general consensus seems to be that it is a very good thing to encourage folks to ponder on problems and figure out how to make their own solutions rather than just going out and buying another doo-dad put together by someone else.

After all, it is the people who make things who have the potential to change the world.

SEED THOUGHT

Matthew Crawford, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT:  An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, has this thought:  “I think [the Maker Movement] is tapping into a really basic fact about us as human beings.  From infancy we learn about the world by manipulating it, by sort of poking it and seeing how it pokes back.”

My own feeling is that each of us carries a little spark of the Creative within us.  It’s a good thing, I think, to go play with that.

Here’s a poem:


SPARK

What do I want?

Peace and freedom,

Friendship and love…

What all humanity says it wants.

 

Unoriginal?

Perhaps…

Or maybe it is encoded

In the cells of this body

That carries the primal spark

Which comes from the eternal flame

That burns at the heart

Of our ancestral home.

 

Work and play bring us together,

More than the sum of our parts,

The synergy fueled by the love

In the hearts of each of us.

 

I am small,

No more substantial

Than a wispy-haired seed,

But the stones are my brothers,

The stars, our cousins,

And the winds carry whispers

And echoes of the life that

Is, has-been and will-be,

And the waters of river and sea

Comfort and cradle and carry us all,

In circles and cycles and serpentine spirals,

Backwards and forwards,

To our beginnings

And our ends….

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo:  Hexapod robot (Maker Faire Somerville) by Chris Devers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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FARM IN THE CITY

FARM IN THE CITY

Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoda once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation of human beings.

THE SEED IS PLANTED

went-to-sleep
“Went to Sleep With 2 Red Pumps, Woke Up With 1” by Ted McGrath via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
In the poorest postal code in Canada, in the city of Vancouver, the old farmer’s vision has come to ground and taken root in a network of four urban farms located on five acres of reclaimed land.  They call it “SOLE Food Street Farms.”

The name is an acronym.  It arose out of a project, “Saving Our Living Environment” (SOLE), by United We Can, a Vancouver non-profit that operates a recycling program and employs street people and people from the neighborhood to clean up streets and alleys.  Until the farms were able to operate independently, they sheltered under the United We Can umbrella.

The project was spearheaded by visionary farmer and food-growing advocate, Michael Ableman (of Foxglove Farm fame), and his collaborator Seann Dory who worked for United We Can.  They put together a project that provides stable jobs and training and development for 25 people, most of whom live in the neighborhood where they work.  Together they have built an oasis of green in the middle of gray and black city hardscape.

DOWN ON THE FARM

This 2013 video, “The Story of Sole Food,” which was produced by Point Blank Creative with the support of Vancity and is available on YouTube, tells the tale:

The farms have succeeded beyond the two founders’ wildest hopes when they began reclaiming their first piece of ground in the parking lot of the Astoria hotel in Strathcona, the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver (right next door to Downtown Eastside, the poorest postal code in all of Canada.)

  • Every year the farms produce over 25 tons of fresh produce that includes tree fruit from a large urban orchard that grows in an abandoned railway yard.
  • The farms supply more than 30 area restaurants and sell at five Vancouver farmer’s markets. They operate a community-supported agriculture program as well.
  • They donate up to $20,000 work of produce every year to community kitchens.
  • Most importantly, they help their urban neighbors reconnect and re-ground themselves in the age-old cycles of life and growing that every farm honors and celebrates.

After the farm project had been going for several years, the MBA program at Queen’s University conducted research into the uber-local farming enterprise.

The guys in the lab coats figured out that for every dollar SOLE Foods spent on employing people who are “hard to employ,” there was a $1.70 combined savings to the person and the legal system, the health care system, the social assistance networks, and the environment through carbon sequestration and energy and transportation benefits.  A good return-on-investment, that.

empowering-people
“Empowering People With Urban Farming” by Province of British Columbia via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TRADITION RE-ITERATED

In his book, STREET FARM:  Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier, Ableman details how the dream came together.

The book is a triumphant mash-up of Ableman’s philosophy about farming as a business and a traditional craft with pictures on every page spread (many of them taken by Ableman) documenting the continuing trials and tribulations of trying to build a real farm in the middle of the big city.   The best parts of the book are the stories about the relationships that have developed between the organizers, the farm workers, their clients, and the Downtown Eastside neighborhoods where they work and live.

If you’d like more information about SOLE Food Street Farms, CLICK HERE.

At the time it began, the scale of the farms was, perhaps, unique.  It was urban agriculture, growing food on a for-real farm that was run as a business with a heavy dose of social consciousness added in.  Many of the earlier efforts by assorted city planners and developers in various cities around the world focused on garden-scale projects – urban horticulture rather than agriculture.

It isn’t a new concept, this growing food in the middle of a city.  As cities grew, the food needed to feed the people was grown all around them.  Sumerians, back in 5000 BCE, were famous for the sophisticated irrigated agriculture in and around some of the world’ earliest cities in what is now southern Iraq.

But, these ancient farmers and all of their descendants in the long history of agriculture did not have farms built on top of pavement covering over the contaminated soil between buildings in the remains of demolished factories and other urban ruins. This is what makes these street farms so remarkable.  What makes them even more remarkable are the number of lives they have touched and the ones they have helped to nurture, heal and rebuild.

Michael Abelman says that SOLE Food Street Farms is “based on the belief that the simple act of planting a seed can bring new life to the world.”

[Amen to that one, braddah.]

“Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala” by D. A. Lewis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a tendency to build bridges between your world and other people’s worlds.  [Foot-traffic on all the bridges you build brings many treasures into your world.]

Here’s a poem:


YOUNG TREE

Young tree in the ground

Started as a seed

Buried in the dark, rich,

Warm earth.

 

Slowly it split apart,

Shoot seeking the light,

Pushing against the cradling earth,

Slowly, slowly.

 

It reaches up into the light,

Day by day by day….

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “The Hidden Radish” by Steph L via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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LISTEN UP

LISTEN UP

Journalist and radio producer Dave Isay firmly believes that every person has a story to tell, one that the world needs to hear, and he’s been working on figuring out how to gather these stories together so everyone can share in them.  It all comes down to taking the time to listen.

THE LOST STORIES

It started, the guy says, when he was a young lad.  He was a loner and a nerdy sort who preferred talking  to older people.

One time he “interviewed” his grandparents and other family elders gathered for Thanksgiving using an old tape recorder he had found packed away in a box at his grandparent’s house.  The old ones were happy to entertain the boy with their stories.  He was enthralled and a good time was had by all.

The elders died after a time, he says, and the old tape he had made of their voices telling stories for their young relative was lost.  Isay has always regretted that loss.

This animated YouTube video tells that story (in the inimitable StoryCorps style) as an introduction to the ongoing work of the massive oral history project that he initiated.

HEARING THE CALL

Years later, Isay was a 21-year-old, freshly graduated from NYU.  He was waffling about whether he really wanted to follow the family tradition of slogging through medical school to become a doctor and took a year off to figure out what he wanted to do.  While he was wrestling with that problem the confused young man decided to try his hand at being a journalist.

Isay’s very first attempt at putting together a documentary was for a story about the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of violent, spontaneous protests by the LGBT community against an early-morning police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay dance bar, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

The raid was part of the constant harassment and bullying the gay community faced during those times.  It was a raid just like any other raid, but this time, someone got mad.  Someone said, “Enough.  Other people joined him.  The angry protests spread and the Gay Liberation Movement was born.

In this YouTube video,  “Remembering the Stonewall Riots” published in 2013 by Open Road Media, Martin Duberman, author of STONEWALL, talks about the significance of the riots.

Isay was really pleased with his work on that first documentary.  It seemed to him that he had found his calling.  He withdrew from medical school and started making documentaries.   His favorites were about the ones about ordinary people.

The man’s life-work has been built on listening to stories.  The company he built, Sound Portraits Productions, is an independent production company dedicated to telling stories about America’s ghettos, prisons and other neglected and hidden American communities  in print, on the radio and on the internet. The company mission statement is emblazoned on the bottom of their emails:   “Sound Portraits Productions…Documenting a Hidden America.

IT’S BEEN DONE BEFORE

It’s not a new idea, nor one for which Isay takes credit.  Instead he lists the ones he calls his heroes, other documentarians of the disenfranchised and the unheard:

  • Joseph Mitchel, the New York journalist of salon-keepers and street preachers
  • Dorethea Lange and Walker Evans, the great WPA photographers
  • Studs Terkel, oral historian extraordinaire
  • Alan Lomax, folk-life archivist
  • Alex Kotlowitz, documentarian of ghetto life.

Sound Portraits Productions went on to create award-winning radio documentaries that were featured on PBS.

Isay has said, “When we feel we’ve succeeded it’s because we’ve managed to expose – truthfully, respectfully – the hidden, forgotten, or under-heard voices of America. And where and when we fail it’s because we’re short of this mark.”

But the little boy who listened wanted to do more.  So many people had stories they wanted to tell and the world needed to hear, but there was no way for them to tell the stories.  Nobody even knew they were there.

STORYCORPS IS BORN AND GROWS AND GROWS

In October, 2003, the first StoryCorps soundproofed “Story Booth” opened in the Grand Central Terminal in New York City with an open invitation for people to interview one another.  Friends, loved ones, even relative strangers were given the chance to conduct 40-minute interviews with help from the StoryCorps facilitators.

Anyone could make an appointment to record a session and it was a free service.  One person was the interviewer, the other was the storyteller, relating some aspect of the life they’ve lived.  The facilitator helped the participants record the interview.

 

Tens of thousands of people went for it.  The storytellers and their listeners got a safe place where they could hold uninterrupted, meaningful conversations and ask and answer the important questions that very often get lost in the everyday daily grind of life.  They also got a copy of the recording as a memento.

Another copy of the recording session was retained by the Story Corps and the stories became a weekly feature of the Morning Edition of NPR (National Public Radio) since 2005.  (They’ve also been used to create animated shorts which can be viewed on the NPR website.)

The original Grand Central Station StoryBooth was closed down and a new one erected at Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square in July, 2005.

storycorps
“Summer Streets 2011: Story Corps” by NYC Dept. of Transportation via Flickr [CC By-NC-ND 2.0]
Meanwhile, that same year, StoryCorps converted two Airstream trailers into mobile recording studios and launched them from the Library of Congress parking lot.  They’ve been touring the country ever since.

Here’s a YouTube video published by StoryCorps, “On the Road Since 2015,” that illuminates that story.

A second semi-permanent StoryBooth opened in San Francisco in 2008.  Over time, additional booths opened in Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee and Nashville as well.

The StoryBooths, both permanent and mobile, were the major collection points for the stories at first, but not everybody could make it to them.  The organization developed a couple of community programs to collect these other stories as well.

There’s the “Door-to-Door” service that sends teams of StoryCorps facilitators to temporary recording locations in the United States for several days at a time.

There’s also the “StoryKit” service that was started when the New York booth closed down in 2011 for a time due to a lack of funding.  Professional-quality, portable recording devices were shipped to participants around the country for this one.

Another workaround that was developed was the “Do-It-Yourself” service that allowed individuals to download free step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations and a “Great Question” list.  This one was for people who wanted to conduct interviews using their own recording equipment.

A DAY FOR LISTENING

In 2008 StoryCorps launched an initiative called “the National Day of Listening” to encourage Americans to record stories with family members, friends and loved ones on Black Friday, the pre-Christmas shopping bonanza that occurs the day after Thanksgiving.

buy-nothing-black-friday
“Buy Nothing Black Friday” by Mike Licht via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Then in 2015, the day was rebranded as “The Great Thanksgiving Listen” when StoryCorps launched their StoryCorps App.  Teams worked with teachers and high school students across the country.  The kids interviewed their elders and recorded their stories over the holiday weekend on an app on their smartphones.

The free app was developed by StoryCorps with the support of a 2015 TED Prize and 2014 Knight Prototype Fund award.  It allows users to record the interviews on a smartphone.  Users can upload their interviews to the StoryCorps.me website.

Over the years, there have been collaborations and initiatives with groups, organizations and institutions from all over the country that target various segments of the American population as well.  Stories have been collected from the military, from people suffering memory loss, from Latinos and from African-Americans, from LGBTQ community, from people in prisons and the criminal justice system, and from those personally affected by the events of September 11, 2001.

Also, there’s the StoryCorps Legacy community program which partners with medical and disease specific organizations to provide opportunities for people with serious illness and their relatives to record and share their life story as well.

A LIVING RECORD

With the participants’ permission, the stories collected by all of these efforts (including the ones recorded on smartphones) are archived in the Library of Congress’ American Folklore Center.  It constitutes the largest single collection of “born-digital” recorded voices in history.  It is a massive living record of American lives by the people who lived it and it is magic.

The stories are slices of life that have been used in a wide range of projects.  The collection has been useful as a resource for various researchers in language, speech-recognition, and history among other things..

Over the years StoryCorp founder Dave Isay has published five books full of stories from the collection as well.

  1. LISTENING IS AN ACT OF LOVE:  A Celebration of American Life From the StoryCorps Project (2007)
  2. MOM:  A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps.  (2010)
  3.  ALL THERE IS:  Love Stories from StoryCorps (2012)
  4. TIES THAT BIND:  Stories of Love and Gratitude From the First Ten Years of StoryCorps (2013)
  5. CALLINGS:  The Purpose and Passion of Work (A StoryCorps Book) (2016)

One of the participants who conducted an oral-history interview with her grandmother in the Grand Central Station StoryBooth was featured in a Library of Congress blog post about the archive and how it was made.

Sharon DeLevie-Orey explained, “Last year my sister and I came to StoryCorps with my then-91-year-old grandmother. We had this fantastic interview, in which my grandma was candid and funny and loving.

“Yesterday she died. I just took out my StoryCorps CD and noticed the date, a year to the day. Tomorrow will be her funeral.  I could only listen to about 20 seconds before bursting into tears,” she says, “but I am so grateful that I have this.  Sure, I could have taped her anytime in the last 41 years. But I didn’t. Now the reward is so huge.”

Her conclusion:  “Everyone should do StoryCorps—because we don’t live forever.”

Sharon’s story is echoed by many others who have participated in the StoryCorps process as well.  For many it was the “best 40 minutes of my life”  that added meaning and mana to their ordinary life.

microphone
“Microphone” by yat fai ooi via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


TO AN OLD STORY TELLER

The thing about telling a story

In the first person

With you at the center of it all,

Looking out from your inner sanctum,

Looking back down

Old roads and paths once traveled,

Is that you know and I know: 

You survived.

You lived to tell the tale.

 

No matter how many thrills

And chills and spills you call up,

The fact is that you’re still standing here

Under this old sun,

Remembering days gone by –

Times of high adventure and

Moments that touched infinity –

Remembering old friends and old foes,

Remembering the mountains and the valleys

Hiding in the mists of your memory.

 

The quiet times make a matrix

Where light plays in the dark

As you hum an old song

And conjure up the dreams

Of the days when you were young and stupid

And the world was new to you.

You are an old survivor.

And me, I am one too.

It’s a marvelous thing to sit,

Leaning against this pillow,

Listening to the dream of you.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Wall” by Apionid via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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MORE FUN THAN ONE

MORE FUN THAN ONE

Starting is a series of events.  You decide to walk to Cleveland and you aim to do it on your own two feet – no bike, no bus, no train, no plane or helicopter…not even a hot-air balloon.  You’re going to walk to Cleveland.

So you take a first step in the right direction.  That’s starting.  At the end of the day, however far you’ve gotten, you might stop at a hotel and rest.  And what happens the next morning?  Either you quit this silly project, decide you’d rather ride, or you start again…walking to Cleveland.

directions
“Directions” by Beat Tschanz via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Up close and personal on this long walk, you’ll start to get the underlying idea after a while.  What you’ll figure out is that every step you take on this long-haul journey is a new beginning.

Every time you take another step you are reaffirming your commitment to your goal and you are making another start.  All the way to Cleveland.  (The trick, of course, is to keep going until you get there.)

But, doing the walk all by yourself can be a long and lonely trip.  A companion or two makes the journey much more fun.  A whole tribe could get downright lively on the road trip.

Entrepreneurial thought leader Seth Godin wrote a book, TRIBES:  We Need You to Lead Us, that talks about how tribes have formed down through the ages.  He shows you how to develop as a leader of one.

Any group of people can become a tribe.  Who knows, maybe you can grow your own and take them along on your journey.  This book could point you in the right direction.

IT’S MORE FUN WHEN THERE’S MORE THAN ONE

Another entrepreneur, Derek Sivers, is best known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, the online CD store for independent music-makers.  He’s also well-known for a TED talk he did that went viral in 2010, “How To Start a Movement.”

During his talk he used a video of a guy in the crowd doing a silly dance at the 2009 Sasquatch Music Festival as a metaphor for his talking points.

The advice contained in the talk is not earth-shattering.  It is, in fact, a bit simplistic, but it did get people thinking about “lone-nut leaders” and how they get validation if they can attract the right guy to follow their lead.

It’s the “first-follower,” Sivers says, who actually shows the rest of the people how to follow and how to join in the fun.

Three years later, Phil Yanov, a technology columnist and public radio commentator, did a TEDx talk in Greenville, SC called, “Bang a Drum.  Build a Tribe.  Start a Movement.”

Yanov takes the idea a little further in his talk.  He gives you three steps to get you off your duff:

  • Find YOUR one true song. (He tells you how to tell when the song you are singing  is your one true song.)
  • SING your song so people can hear it. (Being shy won’t get your song heard, he points out, and reminds you that your mission is more important than little ole you.)
  • Grow your circle everywhere any way you can.

Yanov also offers a bonus bit of advice:  Start today….

If what you’re doing matters, waiting until everything’s just so isn’t going to make it start to happen any faster.

WHEN YOUR KOOL-AID’S BIGGER THAN YOU

There are so many directions you can take this.

If you find an “idea worth spreading,” as our TED-talk friends are wont to say, try asking whether  the idea has been spread as far as it can go.  Has its reach been hobbled by some external factor, perhaps?

Maybe the guy telling the message is a dork-head with zero people skills and his very important idea is getting trashed as a result.  Or maybe that great idea is buried in technical lingo and jargon that leaves everybody dizzy.

Can you help with that?  Can you use your communication skills and make something out of them that the general public can use?  Can you figure out everyday ways to use the seminal good idea to make other people’s lives better?

The framework you build on the one good big idea as you widen your circle of people who are believing in the big idea and helping to spread it and make it happen could become like a sunken ship off some shore that supports a whole colony of reef creatures.  The snorkeling could get good over time.

bowser-the-moray-eel
“Bowser the Moray Eel” by Roy Niswanger (Published) via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

ONE GUY’S TRIBE

As an artist painter Brendan O’Connell has made a name for himself as “the Warhol of Wal-Mart.”  His paintings of the interiors of assorted Wal-Mart stores hang in museums and his art has been lauded by the New Yorker and appeared in the Colbert Report.

O’Connell’s latest works are pictures of branded products on grocery and supermarket shelves. Collectors and aficionados snap these up.   Grocery-cart candidates can be fine art, it seems.

However, O’Connell is more than just another artist with a gimmick.  He has long espoused the idea that creativity is a human birthright and that everyone can be creative.  With this in mind, O’Connell co-founded Everyartist, a non-profit social enterprise that’s bent on sparking creativity by promoting the act of art-making among children.

Every October the group puts together huge community art events (Everyartist Live!) that involve many, many children.  Their goal is to turn the work of a million young artists nationwide into “the most massive community art event in history.”

Here’s a video of one of the events, titled “Wal-Art, Bentonville, AR,” which was published in 2012.

O’Connell built himself a tribe and they started a movement.  They keep on doing good work.

Here’s a poem….


THAT’S THE ONE

The World and the Real:

Two paths to follow.

 

It would be easy if

They just went off in

Different directions…

One going here, one there.

 

But, no.

It can’t be that easy can it?

 

Some cosmic joker went and threw

Another loop into the equation,

Making an intricate Chinese knot

With some pretty name.

 

The paths intertwine,

Over and under and through,

Up and down and around,

No beginnngs, no ends that the eye can see.

 

The cords run parallel; they divide,

Looping and swooping

Through intricate patterns,

They make a beautiful whole.

 

But, how do you tell when

You’re looking for one and not for the other?

How do you know which way to step?

(Too bad they’re not color coded.)

 

The wise guys say if you’re looking for Real,

Here’s what you do:

 

Find the path that shatters,

The one that won’t console,

The one that isn’t some easy glide

Through the same-old, same-old.

 

Find the one that takes all of everything you’ve got

And shakes it up and rearranges it all

Into some new pattern

That you have never seen before.

 

Find the one that scares you,

That bright and sunny one that’s

So full of promise that it hurts

To even look at it.

 

Find the one that starts your fears revving

And makes you dizzy with the vertigo of

Standing next to some edge

Overlooking the deepest abyss.

 

Find the one that makes you tremble,

That makes you long for what might be…

 

That’s the one.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Many Hands” by Four Corners School of Outdoor Education (photo by Jacob W. Frank) via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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CULTURES OF MEANING

CULTURES OF MEANING

It’s been a quiet sort of shift.  More and more people are moving away from the “work-and-spend” mentality that characterized the latter half of the last century.  They are looking for more meaning to add to their lives, they say.

Gregg Easterbrook, in his book, THE PROGRESS PARADOX:  How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, has pointed out, “A transition from material want to meaning want is in progress on an historically unprecedented scale—involving hundreds of millions of people – and may be recognized as the principal cultural development of our time.”

WHY THE SHIFT?

Easterbrook suggests, after delineating assorted studies by the guys who study “happiness,” that the whole mindset centered around material want didn’t actually work so well.   The people who got all the stuff they ever wanted or could imagine were not appreciably happier than they were before the stuff showed up.

The problem is, the researchers say, we humans tend to get accustomed to a certain circumstance – good or bad — very quickly.  When all of our dreams come true, we start to take for granted all of our fulfilled wishes.

All the wise guys down through the ages tried to warn us:  The hunger of our built-in Want Bugs is bottomless.  Get the one absolutely gotta-have-it thing today and tomorrow a new gotta-have-it thing will take its place.  It’s like all those wants are on some kind of conveyor belt that just keeps turning and churning.

treadmill
“Treadmill” by John Reynolds via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The wise guys told us:  The only thing you can do when you’re stuck on a treadmill is to step off.  If a lot of people step off the collective treadmill, then it becomes the start of a movement, the start of another cultural iteration.

This curated YouTube video, “Thanks Internet,” published in 2014 by reKindle.org, shows one change that is happening.

The video is a composite of many videos shared on the Internet by the people trying to help make the world a better place for at least one other person.  The result is an amazing feel-good bit of work.  The non-profit organization posted a message at the end of the video asking that people go do good deeds, take a video and tag it with #reKindleKindness.

They want to do more of videos like this one.

WHAT’S A CULTURE OF MEANING?

All cultures are “meaningful.”  How not?  They are the products of the minds and the lifestyles of a group of people who all live together in it.  The ones that hold the most promise for an individual’s well-being and happiness are the ones that amplify positive values and goals.

Cultures that promote kindness, compassion and love rather than fear, hatred and anger and those that seek to lift up other people rather than inflict harm on them tend to be the ones that grow happy people.

Cultures that cultivate cooperation and participation in something bigger than any one person while tolerating and even honoring individual quirks and idiosyncrasies in its members are more likely to be good for you than those that don’t.  We didn’t really need guys in lab coats to tell us that.  It’s sort of built into our gut-knowledge.

MEANING IN THE INTERNET AGE

The coolest thing about this postmodern world of ours is our exposure to so many different cultures, sub-cultures, sub-sub-cultures, primal cultures, hybrid cultures, made-up and made-to-order cultures….and so on.  We are, in fact, drowning in all this information about all the doings of people around the world.

We can touch the lives of people from around the world.  We can build our own community or tribe of folks from around the globe.

We can even go retro and just touch the life of somebody who lives down the street.

Here’s a YouTube video, “Grow Some Good:  Maui School Gardens,”  that was published in 2013 by Ken Surrey.  The video was made by Emmy-winning photographer Jess Craven about how one group of neighbors have built a culture of meaning around the concept of connecting kids to the food they eat by building and supporting school gardens.

 

The garden featured in the video started with three raised beds and grew, becoming nearly quarter of an acre of food garden and learning lab.

The garden this video spotlights is part of an ongoing project of Grow Some Good, a nonprofit group that has helped to establish food gardens and living science labs in local schools all over the island.

The outdoor classroom lessons support school curriculum in science, math, health and agriculture.  The kids study traditional Hawaiian plants and learn the growing practices of native Hawaiians.  They also experiment with growing and preparing foods from other cultures as well.

The group builds ongoing community partnerships, recruiting volunteers and supporters that include gardeners and farmers, food educators and assorted businesses as well.  Local chefs support the gardens through fundraisers, recipe workshops and harvest parties.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am remembering the struggle I had as a kid memorizing  the words of John Donne’s  “No Man Is An Island.” My teacher liked torturing us with all kinds of high-sounding  ideas.  (I loved her dearly so I gamely tried to not mangle the thing too badly.)

john-donne
John Donne via Wikimedia.com {{PD-Art}}

I’ve since learned that Donne was a cleric in the Church of England during the 17th century, who was considered to be one of the leading “metaphysical poets” of the Renaissance era.  The poem my teacher made me recite was actually first written by him in 1624 as a prose “meditation”in his DEVOTIONS UPON EMERGENT OCCASIONS.

The Renaissance was another period of incredible change and reawakening, it seems to me.  People were searching for meaning and mana in their own ordinary lives back then too.

Confusion and information overload was also a common theme back then.  Just as we are experiencing in our time of great change, the culture and mindset a person chose to embrace back then affected the way he or she walked through the world.

I am thinking it would be a good thing, as part of this exploration of meaning and mana, to feature other stories in this thing about the “cultures of meaning” that our neighbors and cousins and friends are getting into.  What do you think?

 

Here’s a poem:


THE HOW-IT-IS

The true, the beautiful, the good…

Entrance and beckon me.

Their light, like a candle glows,

Softly embracing the warm dark

Full of beloved shadows.

The true keeps me grounded

While the beautiful helps me play,

And the good is a quiet beacon

That shows me the best way.

 

The good, the beautiful, the true:

Without them you get lost.

You nourish others with the good,

The beautiful nourishes you,

And you can keep your feet on the ground,

If you’ll just remember the true.

The three enfold your smallness in one gigantic yes

And turns the whole of everything

In ways that only bless.

 

The beautiful, the true, the good:

You have to have all three.

It cannot only be you and them

They all require “we.”

And all of them together

Make a wonderment and delight

That fades away if you stare too hard,

Pontificate and posture,

Postulate or bite.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “October 21” by R. Crap Mariner via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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LIFE IS GOOD

LIFE IS GOOD

I spent this weekend reading two books.

One was a hoary old classic marketing book, THE 22 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF MARKETING:  Violate Them At Your Own Risk! by marketing strategists extraordinaire Al Ries and Jack Trout which was written in 1994.

This slim book took the world by storm in its day for a good reason.  The master marketers were the first to distill down their work and life experiences into marketing “laws” that still apply to this very day.  It’s a good one for any wannabe marketer to have on their shelf.

gavel
Gavel: Ohio Supreme Court by Andrew F. Scott via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The second book was a joyous romp of a read.  The book, LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK: How to Live With Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, is written by Bert and John Jacobs and is the story of how “two ordinary brothers from Boston, who didn’t want a job but weren’t afraid to work,” built a company worth more than $100 million by selling t-shirts with the help of their friends.

It’s a very good read, authentic and honest, that incorporates told-from-the heart stories and a picture album of their wonderful shirt designs and the people who made it all happen having fun.

It was also a real-life illustration of the Ries-Trout Fifth Law, The Law of Focus, which says, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”

You burn your way into the minds of your customers by narrowing your focus to a single word or concept, these mavens say.  And your customers will help you build your world around that concept.

The corollary to that law is this:  “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”

ONE IDEA, ONE DESIGN, ONE BRAND

The rollicking tale of the Jacobs boys’ journey is part of their brand legend .

Starting in 1989, the Jacobs brothers wandered around, crisscrossing state lines in a nondescript mini-van hustling their shirts to no avail.  By 1994, with $78 between them, the boys were ready to throw in the towel.  They had, after all, given it their best shot.

As they drove home to Boston, they were talking about the daily flood of negative news. Between them they agreed that the only thing that could counter the mindset that arises from swallowing all that negativity was a different one with which they were very familiar.

It was a mindset that they had learned from their mom, Joan – untrammeled optimism in the face of constant obstacles and obstructions.

This You-Tube video, published by RogiDream,  features two short poems by the brilliant Charles Bukowski who had a genius for hitting the heart.  They are spoken by Tom O’Bedlam and speak to the real power behind the concept of optimism.

Optimism really is not about swimming in peaches and cream, you know.  It is about fighting the good fight and staying with it no matter what.

The highway talk led the brothers to one idea that led to one shirt design that became the brand called “Life Is Good.”

LISTENING TO THE FEEDBACK

After every road trip, the brothers threw a coming-home party to celebrate making it back to home base.  Even though they were depressed and tired, they went ahead with their ritual.

At each of these parties it was their practice to tape sketches of all of their newest t-shirt design ideas on the walls of their apartment and encourage their friends to comment on the ideas by writing on the wall.

The design that got the most kudos was the result of their highway talk:  a line-drawing of a good ole guy with a baseball cap on his head and a wide grin.  The caption said, “Life Is Good.”

When they printed up 48 shirts with that one design and took them to a street fair to hawk, they were amazed.  All of the shirts (including the two they were wearing) sold in less than an hour to a wide array of people.

BUILDING OF A TRIBE

Naturally they made more of the shirts.  They kept on selling and LIFE IS GOOD became their brand name.

The concept grew and evolved as more and more people joined in the fun and the brothers kept listening to the suggestions from their customers.  More and more people jumped on for the ride.

The result became that $100 million company that uses art work and shares inspiring stories from their customers.  Their designs, all focusing on the power of optimism,  were magnetic.  People flocked to join a tribe who sincerely believes in the power of optimism.

These days, ten percent of the company’s annual profits goes to help kids overcome poverty, violence and severe medical challenges.  Their nonprofit LIFE IS GOOD Kids Foundation positively impacts the lives of more than 100,000 children a day.

Festivals and celebrations are a part of corporate life.  So is helping people.

Here’s a YouTube TEDx talk at Beacon Street recorded in 2013 featuring one of the brothers, Bert Jacobs, “Do What You Like, Like What You Do.” The company’s grown a bunch since then.

It’s all good.

SUPERPOWERS YOU CAN GROW

LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK lists ten “superpowers” that can be developed to enhance your own optimistic mindset:  Openness, Courage, Simplicity, Humor, Gratitude, Fun, Compassion, Creativity, Authenticity and Love.

The brothers devote a chapter to each of these attributes, ending each one with ideas and suggestions for growing your own.  And they promise:  “The Life Is Good superpowers will help you overcome obstacles, drive forward with greater purpose, and enjoy the ride of life.”

That is also a very good thing….

Here’s a poem:


THE CYCLE CONTINUES

The cycle continues:

arising, becoming, crumbling away,

then born again in some new-old form –

a never-ending relentless pattern

flowing, spiraling through this life,

in this world of dust.

 

And here’s me: 

trying to dance on top of this turning wheel…

moved to try to direct it, even…

(not that there’s a steering wheel).

 

It rolls on, it rolls on,

and I keep trying to play with it,

reiterating halcyon days of youth

when us kids took turns

rolling that abandoned old truck tire

down the grassy hill behind the baseball field,

trying to keep from crashing it through

the mean old neighbor-lady’s hibiscus hedges

and running over her half-blind old English bulldog.

 

Rolling that tire back up that hill

was part of the price for playing.

 

Laughing was the best part.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  Life Is Good by Herr Olsen via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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WHERE ARE YOU STANDING?

WHERE ARE YOU STANDING?

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that your own truth is based on what you feel or deduce from where you stand.  [So then the question becomes:  Where are you standing?]

It’s the human dilemma, it seems to me:  we each have this spark of the Creative in there and it demands that we do Something to deliver the gift that each of us is to the World.  There is even a built-in expiration date on the thing.  (We only get a certain amount of time here in the World, after all.)

It’s not that there aren’t guideposts, and training manuals and how-to books, and tapes, and organizations galore that are perfectly willing to tell you which way to go.  Everybody has an opinion, everybody has The Right Way.  Uh-huh.

stand
“Stand” by Go to See This World Through Lenses via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

GETTING ON WITH YOUR OWN DANCE

It seems to me that the only thing that’s worth anything in all the blather is knowing that you are free to do whatever you want to do, just like everybody else.  It is a good starting point.

You get to choose which way you go from where you’re standing.  The rest of it you make up as you go along.

It does work better if you listen to your own heartsong.  It gets right lively if you dance when you can.  (Trudging along with your head down tends to be so disheartening.)

movement-9
“Movement 9” by Pedro Martin via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Since you’re just the messenger, the gift you are holding is the important thing in all this.  Your  job is to make your delivery.  The world is waiting on you.  (If you step on too many toes, of course, there will be consequences and you’ll either handle them or not, but that’s just another part of the story.)

Your delivery-man  or -woman journey probably goes better if you can find your own way to dance.  Dreams and visions are a part of that journey.  Where you go and what you do is all on you.

WHAT IF YOU’RE A NON-STARTER?

It is always an option to be a non-starter.  You could just say no to all that effort and trying and turn your back on your mission.  Of course you can.  You’re free, remember?

The biggest problem you encounter when you give up on your visions and your dreams is that you will probably end up dissipating all this good energy that became available to you when you first started out.  When you decide to just give up, you are very likely to end up standing there in the middle of the road, scratching your head wondering how you’re supposed to share this gift you know you’re carrying.

RECURRING OBSTACLES AND OBSTRUCTIONS

The other thing about this journey is that, invariably, no matter which direction you choose to take, there will be a really big ball of knotted strings — your if-thens and your maybes and your buts and your can’ts — right in the middle of this road you’ve decided you’re supposed to be traveling down.

It is huge, this ball.  It blocks the whole road.  You’ll probably have to push that ball out of the way so you can get on down the road you’ve chosen to take.  (Every time you stop to take a breather, that stupid ball’s probably going to materialize right in the middle of your road again.  It’s what it does.)  It is H-A-R-D.  Yes, it is.

And every time the ball comes back and you’re standing there feeling disgruntled, you have to decide again:  Go on?  Stop?  Turn around?  Take the time to try to dismantle the ball (and watch it morph into some other recurring obstruction) or just keep on heading towards your dream?

You know, if you do give up on dreaming and visioning and all that and refuse to enter into or continue onward in the fray, it’s possible that you will get to be a rock that sort of sits there eroding in the wind and the wet.  Just part of the landscape.  Somebody may come along and turn you into a piece of a wall or something.  Maybe you’ll get to be part of some other road.

rocks-on-koki-beach
“Beach Rocks on Koki Beach” by Adam Theo via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Maybe that’s okay.  You’re useful.  You’re doing something.  And then you’re dead.  Right.

Or maybe you can transform yourself into a leaf floating down a stream, just cruising and looking pretty, bumping into things.  You’re already dying, but it’s a sunny day and it’s okay. Nothing much happens.

mango-leaves-in-chings-pond
“Mango Leaves in Ching’s Pond” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
You party with all the other leaves or sit around telling each other things and all that.  It’s cool.  Then you sink down under the water and turn to sludge.  Right.

A BETTER WAY

There’s got to be a better way, don’t you think?  Here are some thoughts from motivational speaker Iyanla Vazant, speaking at the 2014 ESSENCE Music Fest, a “party with a purpose” that started in 1994 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence, a magazine aimed primarily toward African-American women.

It’s a YouTube video, “Iyanla Vanzant On Creating a New Life Vision,” published by Essence in 2014.

The Essence Fest, as it’s known locally in New Orleans, has become the largest event celebrating African-American culture and music in the United States.  It happens from June 29 to July 2  this year.

And here’s a poem:


 DARING TO DANCE THE TIDE

Daring to dance the tide.

(Won’t reach my dream-place ‘less I try.)

 

Daring to dance the tide.

(No question ’bout it,

Those scary waves are so very high!)

 

Daring to dance the tide.

(Stomach in knots but my hands are steady,

My heart’s already sailing on,

Going high and wide.)

 

Daring to dance the tide.

(Hey, heart!

Wait for me!

Here I come….

Hoo-hoo!

What a ride!)

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Maui Sunrise” by Angela Sevin via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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KEEP WHAT YOU LOVE

KEEP WHAT YOU LOVE

It’s the new “thing” — Letting Go.  Everybody who’s anybody keeps telling you that the only way to move forward is to let go of all that baggage you’re lugging around.   “The Simple Life,” hey, ho!  Minimalism rules.

They tell you, “Gee whiz, guys and girls…you’ve got a wagon train following along behind you with all the accumulated baggage of a lifetime and you’re pulling that thing around with you.  No wonder you’re so tired all the time.”

For the most part, that is probably a truth, you know.  People who have little day-packs can scoot along hiking trails a heck of a lot easier than the guys lugging around those huge mountain backpacks that tower over their heads.

backpacker
Backpacker by dontdothisathome via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

MAKING A START

You figure that you probably do have to let go of at least some of that stuff.  As you’ve probably found already, if you’re a natural-born hoarder who tends to leave claw marks all over stuff you’re forced to release, even letting go of just one little thing might be really tough.

It’s likely that you’ll start remembering the back-story behind every itty-bitty thing or else you’ll recall the dreams you had for this thing or that.  Getting to The Simple Life could very well become an exploration and excavation into your life-story.

You may keep getting sidetracked by all those stories and perhaps you’ll never get to the part where you let go of anything.

GETTING CARRIED AWAY

So, finally, after much browbeating there you are, winnowing your way through your stuff and starting to feel good about making all that progress.  The space around you is starting to clear up and it really does feel good.

It’s a good thing to remember that some of the more enthusiastic of our wanna-be advisors ignore the truth that you do have to be careful when you start tossing stuff.   If you make it past the first little throw away and then start getting into the swing of it all, it’s relatively easy to tip into deep toss-mode.

Then it’s possible that anything or maybe even everything can go out the window.  There you are, at the height of minimalistic euphoria….

“Tossing out the bath water…heave, ho, hup!..OOPS!  There went the baby!”

Easy, there.  Take a breather.  You do not have to clear everything out all at once.

 QUESTIONING YOUR WAY TO CLEAR

Here’s a three-part exercise that might help if you really are not making any headway at all.

Choose a target area that you want to clear. It doesn’t have to be a large area. It could be a small corner of a room.  It could be a kitchen drawer.

Part One is to pick up each object in your designated area and ask yourself these three essential questions:

  • Do I need this? (Be brutally honest here.  Do you really need twelve can openers?  Do you need that tacky-   looking tattered potholder?)
  • Is this useful? (Does it work?  Have you used it at all in the past six months?)
  • Do I still have a strong connection with it? (Do I love it? Is it uplifting eye-candy? Or is it some guilt-holding like that uber-tacky hand-me-down vase from your beloved old Aunt Martha, the one that leaked all over the dining room table the one time you used it.)

Depending on your answers to these essential questions, you can stick the thing into one of three piles – the YES pile (for the stuff you’re keeping), the NO pile (for the stuff you’re tossing) and the MAYBE pile.  If you’re a real pack-rat the MAYBE pile is going to be the biggest one of all.

Part Two of this exercise is to disappear the MAYBE pile.  Ask yourself the questions again for each of the objects in the maybe pile.  Keep asking until there are only two piles – YES or NO.  The goal is to end up with only YES things in your life.

Part Three is to find places to put the YES stuff on display or in some easy-to-reach place.  Understand that YES stuff that are packed in boxes stuck on high shelves are actually MAYBE or NO things in disguise.

Then, pack up the NO stuff and — this is the important parttake the NO stuff far, far away before the sun sets on your head.

If you are a natural-born hoarder, keeping the NO stuff for the Someday Garage Sale is just an invitation to collect more stuff.  Do not do it!

Renting out storage space for the NO stuff is cheating.  It is also very expensive.

Understand that these drastic measures are just a kick-starter.  Once you get the hang of disappearing things, you won’t need to be quite so deliberate about it.

Once you’ve gotten one space cleared, it does get easier to tackle another little bit and then another until the only things left in your life are the YES stuff.

(Maybe you haven’t noticed this, but these same questions work whether you’re looking at a thing, a person, or some situation that is bothering you.)

PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST

Victoria Moran, in her book LIT FROM WITHIN: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty, points out, “A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ”

This is another good reason for understanding the why of the things you keep.

This YouTube video of a TedXIndianapolis Talk by screenwriter and blogger Maura Malloy, “The Masterpiece of a Simple Life,” points to a balanced way to get back to simple without losing what you love.

Here’s a poem:


CHANGE

Change is going to happen…

That’s guaranteed.

With me or without me,

Change is going to happen.

 

And it’s a very funny thing:

I can affect change

One, two, three…

And it’s a very funny thing.

 

When I put my energy there

Towards nurturing the good

Then the good will grow,

When I put my energy there.

 

When I put my energy there

Towards nurturing the beauty,

Then beauty will surround me,

When I put my energy there.

 

If I grow lax, letting things fall apart,

Get all lazy, losing heart,

That’s where the change goes

If I grow lax, letting things fall apart.

 

If I lose my way, if I grow weak,

Forget my path and forget to speak,

That’s where the change goes

If I lose my way, if I grow weak.

 

Change can’t be forced, oh, no, no, no…

You can’t push the river,

It just keeps it flow

Change can’t be forced, oh, no, no, no.

 

Going where it will, where it must,

Change still needs space and trust.

Time is the essence, a vehicle,

Going where it will, where it must.

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  Clutter by staci myers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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FINDING YOUR AUDIENCE

FINDING YOUR AUDIENCE

It’s a cliche, of course.  Writers, artists, and performers of all sorts (including politicians and business speakers) are forever being told that they have to “find their own voice.”  The premise in all this advice is that each one of us is a unique individual with our own way of seeing the world and sometimes by speaking our own truths in our own way we can help other people find theirs.  Your “voice” is your style, how you present your own truths.

Those of us who want to communicate our thoughts to the world spend a lot of time thinking on that.  We spend a lot of time trying to figure out not only how to say our own say, but also we keep trying to figure out how to find an audience that will hear us when we do.  Communication is a two-way street.  There’s you doing the sending and there’s all those other guys doing the receiving (and talking back).

Here are some thoughts about this from a varied group of people who have been working in their craft for a while.  All of them have worked on finding their own voice.  Each of them has found and cultivated an audience who hears them.  Perhaps one of their ideas will spark some of your own.

TO FIND YOUR VOICE, USE IT

Artist and online entrepreneur Austin Kleon, in his book SHOW YOUR WORK:  10 Ways to Share Your Creativity And Get It Discovered, had some hard-earned advice.  After years of trying to figure it out he says, “….now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it.  It’s hardwired, built into you.  Talk about the things you love.  Your voice will follow.”

This YouTube video, “How to Find Your Own Voice,” was published by Bedros Keuilian, the president of Fit Body Boot Camp International, which is among the fastest growing fitness chains in the world, apparently.  Keuilian focuses on marketing strategies in his videos.  In this one, Keuilian points out the importance of being you.  (Everybody else is taken.)

USE YOUR VOICE TO FIND YOUR AUDIENCE

As a writer, a speaker or an artist, your incentive for developing a voice is so that people will recognize you, listen to you, hear you.  Madman-writer Dan Harmon advises, “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.”

In this YouTube video clip published by FidelWriting, Harmon is giving a talk at the Nerdist Writers Panel.  This bit of silliness is Episode 107, “Structure of a Sitcom.”  In his advice to young writers Harmon does a wonderful riff about storytellers….

Buried in the laughter is a truth:  Your voice is yours.  Don’t let anyone take it away from you.

This little gem’s from Roz Parry, a consultant in communication and team-building.  She agrees that the best way to find your audience is to speak with your own voice.  “You have to be true to your deep beliefs, especially in the face of adversity.  That way you attract the people to you who value you and what you stand for.  They come to you, not the other way around.”

SUSSING OUT YOUR AUDIENCE

Finding and speaking with your voice is only half of the communication equation.  You also need to know something about the audience that your work attracts.

Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold was the Secretary-General of the United Nations for most of the 1950’s.  Hammarskjold pointed out another truth, “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you hear what is sounding outside, and only he who listens can speak.”

Todd Henry is the founder and CEO of The Accidental Creative, a company that helps creative people and teams generate brilliant ideas.  He regularly speaks and consults with companies about how to develop practices and systems that lead to everyday brilliance.  He’s written three books:  ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE, DIE EMPTY and LOUDER THAN WORDS.

Henry says, “It’s not the responsibility of your intended audience to adapt to you, it’s your responsibility to adapt your idea so they can receive it.” 

 So, how do you suss out your audience?  Listening is a big part of that.  So is research.

This Kickstarter YouTube video is part of a collection of helpful tips and advice from creators about common Kickstarter project questions.  In this one, “Knowing Your Audience,” filmmakers Karyn Parsons , the creator of “The Janet Collins Story;”  Adam Weber and Jimmy Goldblum,  co-directors of “Tomorrow We Disappear;” David Thorpe, director of “Do I Sound Gay?” and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, director of “Call Me Kuchu” tell how they worked to find and build the audiences for their crowd-funded projects:

Here’s a poem about getting the voice right….


VOICE

 

When you get it right, when it all goes well,

And everything falls in place,

There’s a shift inside of you

That opens up another space.

 

You’re an empty, hollow flute

That the winds blow through and through,

And the words that appear on the page

Don’t even feel like you.

 

You think another voice

Has sounded through your throat,

And all the notes and pauses

Seem to effortlessly float.

 

The variations and the themes

Are from some other place,

Some other who in some other when,

Wearing some other face.

 

It is a comfort then

To understand and see

That the self you think you know

Is more than you think it could be.

 

The music of the spheres contain the songs you sing

Stop shrinking yourself small;

You’ll get big enough inside

To contain and reframe them all.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Disembodied Voices by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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RISE OF THE KHAN (ACADEMY)

RISE OF THE KHAN (ACADEMY)

It’s a well-known story now:  A young engineer and hedge fund analyst begins helping his niece understand algebra during a family visit.  The lessons work so well that the young man continues to tutor the girl online using Yahoo’s Doodle notepad.  Then, other relatives and friends want help in mathematics as well so the analyst moves his tutorials to YouTube where he creates an account so he can meet the demand for his help and…

But, wait.  There’s a YouTube video that’s a collaborative effort of Reddit’s entrepreneur community and the Google Cloud Platform called “Sal Khan’s (Khan Academy) Formative Moment.”  It tells the story better than I can.  CLICK HERE to see the video….

HOW IT GREW

In the beginning, the teaching videos were hand-made by Khan for his cousins.  The earliest ones were about math and followed the interests and needs of the cousins.   The videos show step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard.

As he put them together, Khan presented short, often funny, lectures explaining what he was doing and why.  Khan listened to the feedback from the cousins, working with them to make the things more effective as learning tools for his students.  He was surprised when the videos attracted the attention of literally thousands of viewers from around the world.

Later, after Khan had quit his day-job and stayed home, working with his close friend Josh Gefner to develop the content of his YouTube channel; after they put up the Khan Academy website (khanacademy.org) as a wrapper for the videos hosted on YouTube; after Khan spent a great deal of effort and time promoting the Academy and their mission; and after the Academy began receiving donations to support their work, it began to grow by leaps and bounds.

The Academy was able to expand its faculty and offer courses about history, healthcare, medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology, American civics, art history, economics, music, computer programming and computer science.  The lesson library continues to grow.

The organization also developed a network of content specialists who help put together the courses as well. Besides the broader range of subjects and lessons, updates have included collaborations with the Stanford Medical School, and even math and science explorations with NBA star LeBron James.

In August 2015 Khan Academy partnered with Disney & Pixar Animation Studios to launch Pixar in a Box on Khan Academy. The goal, they said, was to show how academic concepts students learn in school are used to solve creative challenges in the making of Pixar films.

HOW IT MORPHED

All of the videos available on the Khan Academy website are licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) 3.0 license.  Khan really did mean it when he said he wanted to make opportunities for learning available for everybody.

Tools on the website like the Coach Resources section (aimed at parents, tutors and teachers) has helpful tutorials on using the site as well as monitoring software to help track the progress of students.  An adaptive web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on their skill and performance was also developed.   Teachers and tutors could track a student’s progress without having to subject them to the stress of testing.

Software for doing the exercises with feedback and continued assessment was made available as an open source project under the MIT License.

The dashboard on the site improved over time.  Navigation got easier and lessons could be recommended based on student progress.  Students were able to pause the lessons and return to it at a later time.

A companion iPad app allowed video downloads for off-line viewing.  Meanwhile assorted non-profit groups distributed offline versions of the videos to rural areas in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Over the years, thousands of Khan Academy resources have been translated into other languages and is supported by partners and volunteers in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Hindi, Indonesian, German, Czeck, Italian, Swahili, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Xhosa, Greek, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Malayalam, and Chinese.

The website has been translated to 23 languages and its videos to 65.  There are seven “official” websites now, each in a different language.

On September 15, 2014, a brick-and-mortar Khan Lab School opened in Mountain View, California.  The work continues.

HERE’S THE REAL

Khan and his Academy have won all kinds of prestigious awards nationally and internationally.  The Academy is entirely supported by donations from assorted foundations and is used as a tool by many educators and parents, mostly because it apparently works.  Kids and adults learn.  They like it.

Students can sign up using a Google or Facebook account.  An e-mail address will also work.

Khan wrote a book about his vision of education, THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE:  Education Reimagined,  in 2013.  In it he presents a case for returning to “mastery learning,” a concept that, he says, was abandoned in the last century.

the-one-world-school-house
The One World School House (via Amazon.com)

LOVE IT, HATE IT…WHATEVER

The Academy and Khan do have detractors.  Professional educators who don’t like the Academy harp on the fact that Khan does not have a background in pedagogy.  What’s “pedagogy”?  Apparently, it is the “art and science of teaching.” It’s the way teachers teach and nurture child development according to the theories behind modern education methods.  There are different flavors of pedagogy and a number of different schools of thought.

Khan and the instructors who put together videos for the Academy don’t work on trying to develop anything in their students.  They just want to share the nuts-and-bolts of how to solve a particular problem and to add to the factoids and thoughts already in the learners’ heads.

The Khan Academy seems to have some virulent haters as well as rabid fans.  The critics say there is nothing “new” about teaching through lectures.  Some haters have even gone so far as to call Khan “boring” and “incompetent.”

It is true that the Academy lesson videos are basically just simple lectures that show students how to do things.  They tend to present the practical, procedural side of things.

Sometimes there are inaccuracies and errors.  There are sometimes confusing bits in some of the videos, especially when the whys and wherefores of a system of doing things are discussed.  These inconsistencies are quickly corrected when they are found.

The videos themselves are plain.  There’s no music, no distracting cartoons, no fancy tricks, and no talking heads in them.  There’s just the lesson.

Students can concentrate and focus on what they are doing.  The best thing about these videos is that the students control the pace of the learning and they can go back over the parts that don’t make sense to them again and again.

Khan points out that he has always said that the Academy can be used as a tool for the classrooms and for education.  He, himself, has never advocated replacing more traditional paths with the Academy videos.  “I think they’re valuable,” he says, “but I’d never say they somehow constitute a complete education.”

The haters, however, especially take issue with Khan’s idea for “flipping the classroom.”  A part of his vision is for students to watch his lecture videos at home, try some of the problems and when the class meets, the students and their teachers can engage and try hands-on projects.  They can have more discussions among peers as well as more one-on-one interactions between the teacher and students.

Academy critics have been called bitter and threatened.  Khan’s “followers” are accused of being a part of a cult.

FINAL THOUGHT

My own thought on this is that Khan has succeeded in making a remarkable product.  Folks remark on it…and the buzz continues.

Here’s another Evan Carmichael offering in his YouTube video series of the “Top 10 Rules for Success.”  Internet entrepreneur and social media marketeer Evan Carmichael has an ongoing project to collect the top ten Rules of Success held by assorted successful people in every field of endeavor.  He’s put together videos featuring writers, artists, musicians, film makers as well as assorted business people.  You may want to check out Carmichael’s website, #BELIEVE (EvanCarmichael.com .)

These are Salman Khan’s top 10:

And here’s a poem:


WRITING DOWN THE BONES

Writing down the bones

Helps in ways that

Echo down through the years.

 

You do not forget so easily….

The daily grind does not wear away

That blade of pain

That lances through your complacency,

Presenting you with the steaming guts

Of another deader-dream.

 

You remember, and you honor

The ephemeral beauty of

The joys that grab your heart and

Buoy it up and up

Until it floats ‘mid nebulous clouds of stars

In the deepest dark,

Catching rides on chuckling comets and

Tickling the edges of black-hole mysteries.

And you savor again the enveloping warmth

Of the welcome home.

 

You do not, cannot muck it up

With think and double-think

When the raw is sitting on the page

Waiting for you to touch it yet again.

 

The lessons transmute and morph into

Axioms that divide into precepts and corollaries

And “whereas-es” and “wherefores” spiral out and out

As your mind expands…

Big enough to contain mountains,

Big enough to cradle the sky…

 

As Dragon uncoils from sleep,

As Phoenix burns in flight,

As Tiger stalks through the underbrush

And Turtle moves, deliberating,

While the winds of change blow through.

 

It’s a hard road, this writing down the bones,

And the tracks of the tears running down your face

Mark the paths down which it takes you.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Salman Khan at TEDx talk (cropped from original by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

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