California is cool. I’ve always known this. But, the last time I went to California I started to understand why.
I stayed in Costa Mesa for few days to talk to art students about going to college. One of the things that I didn’t realize was that I was down the street from Newport Beach. The only reason I found that out was because I was Yelping for places to eat.
Cool thing number one about California: the variety of places to eat. I found a fast Vietnamese place a block from the beach.
I didn’t end up eating there my first night because right next to it is a Greek place. I’m a sucker for a gyro. When the sign said gyro and fries for $8.99 I walked in, ordered and walked to the beach.
I was listening to an audio book while I walked (gotta utilize my time to productive). As I was sitting down to eat my headphone fell out. Then I dawned on me, I’m at the beach. I should be listening to the waves.
The sound of the ocean is magic.
I watched families play in the sand and the surfers surf. There were so many surfers.
I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago. When the film industry started to move it. The excitement of being in a new place and doing new things. It must have been contagious.
That spirit still lives there.
The first time I went to California Adventure I felt the same way. Walking down Main Street and trying to imagine what it was like for Walt Disney to be a part of that. To imagine what was possible. Recognizing the potential.
After eating I walked down the beach and felt the air. The heaviness of the humidity. It’s palpable.
The wet air of the Pacific Northwest sinks into my skin. I can feel it through to my bones. But in California it rests on top. Hydrates my skin. It’s refreshing.
When I get into a place like that I get excited about being a part of it. I want to be in it, living the life; surfing, frisbee on the beach, biking down the boardwalk, skateboarding, breathing the air, and eating the food.
The interesting thing is that I felt the same way on that same trip to Disneyland I talked about earlier. I get into the park and I want to work there. Be part of it.
A few weeks after that Disney trip I realized that that’s not what I want. As I walked across the Newport Pier and watched the sunset I realized the same thing. This is not what I want.
I don’t want Southern California. I don’t want to work for Disney.
I want the excitement that they represent. I want to do work that makes an impact. I want to help make the lives of those around me better. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.
Then It dawns on me that that’s exactly what I’m doing. I have a job that I enjoy, in an beautiful part of the world, working with wonderfully creative people. I am married to a beautiful and smart woman and together we have two incredibly different and amazing kids. I have had some incredible opportunities to meet great people and visit places around the world.
While there are plenty of days that I wish I made more money, and that things were different than what they are, when I really think about it…what I’ve got is really great.
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Art is not the most lucrative career path. It is uncertain, exhausting, and yet, can be incredibly fulfilling.
When artists get together and talk they understand that art is not always going to pay the the bills and so they’ll throw around this phrase that I didn’t understand at first. They’ll ask each other about their studio practice.
It’s essentially asking if they are still creating work. Working on their craft, continuing to get better.
One of the benefits of working for an art school, or in any college or university setting are the educational perks. Things like lectures, classes, discussion groups, panels, or workshops. I’m up for anything new, interesting or insightful.
I had the opportunity to attending a class that a colleague of mine was teaching on mind-mapping. I was mostly interested in seeing her teaching style and to gain a better understanding of how classes work on campus. I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did.
I love that.
My mind-mapping experience was from 7th grade and it was used for organizing thoughts and ideas into a paper. Like an outline only more visual. I didn’t get it. I got that people might prefer using a mind map over an outline but I didn’t understand the specific benefits of mind-mapping as a technique over outlining.
A few years ago I watch a webinar where the guy used mind-mapping software to go through the concepts he was talking about during the webinar. The software allows you to open and close different section of the mind map so that the concepts were unrolled in an organized way. Instead of just seeing a whole bunch of random ideas at once.
The software is called X-Mind. It impressed me enough that I downloaded it. It didn’t hurt that it was free. I’ve been using it to organize different projects ever since.
But that’s all I was doing, organizing thoughts on project I already had. I wasn’t fully utilizing mind-mapping.
The photo above is of my colleagues mind map from her thesis year at art school. I just assumed that she used it the same way that I use X-Mind until she said that while prepping to teach she pulled out this mind map and added to it.
For her, that particular mind map was a living document.
There’s an exercise that I like to do with students to help them recognize the natural connections our brains are capable of. It’s called Point at Stuff and Name It. The title is pretty self explanatory. There are three different phases.
Students walk around for a minute pointing at different things around the room. When they point at something they say what it is.
Example: (pointing a door) “Door”, (pointing at window) “Window”, (pointing at floor) “Floor”, etc.
Students walk around for a minute point at different things around the room. This time when they point at things they say what they previously pointed at.
Example: (pointing a door) “….” (pointing at window) “Door” (pointing at floor) “Window”, etc.
Students walk around for a minute point at different things around the room. This time when they point at things they call it anything except what it actually is.
Example: (pointing a door) “Chicken” (pointing at window) “Marsupial” (pointing at floor) “Abraham Lincoln”, etc.
What happens on the third phase after the previous two warm ups, is that our brains will categorize. When we point at things we’ll go through every farm animal we know and then switch to football teams. It’s not something we try to do we just do it.
For me the untapped potential of mind mapping is organizing free association brain storming. I love free association because it opens the gate to our subconscious, which allows us to connect things we might hesitate to bring up. But, because everything is spur of the moment, it just happens.
When creating a mind map of whatever topic I’m thinking about I can connect the initial ideas with the roots that triggered my thoughts. When I go back and review it provides a clearer picture of my initial process. I can then edit it and make more logical sense of it so that I can clearly communicate my ideas to others.
This is a mind map that I made for an upcoming post about building a relationship with my son.
Before starting it I just had ideas without a clear way of how they were connected. Later I will edit this into the actual blog post, expanding the ideas and writing through their connection.
It’s another tool that I can use to accomplish my goals. Hopefully the more I use them the more proficient I will be and the more “work” they will accomplish.
How have you used/do you use mind mapping?
Two months ago I did the initial interview for the job I have now. I’ve interviewed a few times before but this interview was different. After the first few questions my heart settled and I breathed easy because I knew the answers.
I felt more like a consultant than an interviewee. I was offering advice, and talking about my experience. I was hearing about the problems and offering solid solutions. I wasn’t bragging about myself, I was showing them the work that I had done by speaking from experience and authority
It was kind of weird.
I’ve thought about that interview a lot and have asked myself a million times, why it was different?
I am assuming that at some point in the future I will interview for another job and I would like to repeat this process. Understanding how I got to that point will provide insight into how I can make it happen again. If you get something out of the process, that would be pretty great too.
The key insight for this process came from a quote by Neil Strauss who said, “The opportunity doesn’t come until we’re ready.”
The first time I interviewed for a director position was after being in recruitment for a year. I got a phone interview, but only because I already worked for the institution.
I bombed it. I wasn’t ready. I knew enough about the position to talk about it, but I didn’t understand the problems and solutions necessary to do the job.
No matter what the position is there are always nuances that are invisible when looking at the position from the outside. They can’t be noticed until you’re in the position. That’s why it’s easy to sit back and see other people doing their job and think, “I could do that.”
After bombing the interview I tried to learn from it. They asked me questions I hadn’t heard before. I was clueless. Those questions sent me in the direction of the learning the answers. I was interested in doing a better job.
I started to look for answers, asking colleagues and friends for their input. I went to conferences and listened. Slowly I was building my knowledge base and trying to put what I was learning into practice.
The next interview was a year later. During the process of the interview I was able to talk deeper about the subject. My knowledge had grown significantly. I could talk shop and speak about best practices and results.
From those interviews I was given more responsibility than the original position was created for. In that position I was able to see deeper into the process.
I got straight to work implementing the knowledge I had gained. There were some bumps along the way as I learned the different dynamics of working at a different kind of institution (moving from a 2-year to a 4-year). There are different processes and different goals, different people, and different systems, it was a learning curve, but the process was similar.
A year and a half later I got another interview. Although not as tough as the first interview I still wasn’t ready. I wasn’t director material. Not yet. Like the first one it sent me in a good direction for what I needed to learn next.
This was a critical point for me. I started to see how different departments worked together. This insight helped me to learn how to ask the right kind of questions.
How I saw my job started to change as well. I had a good understanding of recruitment out in the field. I then learned how to navigate the office environment. Now I was learning to see how the different offices worked together.
I started conversations with other departments, getting different perspectives and understanding how our day to day activities overlap and work together to reach the collective goal. It was a shift in mindset from tactical to strategic, from day to day to year to year.
The first time I went rafting it was to learn how to guide a tame section of a river. The guide that was teaching us showed us how to look up from our paddles to see the bends in the river. To look ahead and make decisions based on what we saw ahead of us. not what was happening right now.
Conceptually I got it. Look up, see what’s coming. But I wasn’t in the habit. I had no practice. Because of that I had to wait until I had practice. Time is the only way to develop practice.
Before I knew it I was doing the work. I was putting in the practice. When I sat in on the interview my body reacted, when the interview started I eased into the knowledge I had acquired.
Now that I’ve started the new job there is another learning curve, it’s a different industry, a different model of education, there are different people, in a different place, the only thing I can do is continue to learn. Hopefully, when I’m ready I’ll recognize the opportunity and be able to take it.
Every month I send out a text on a certain day and time. Everyone who participates takes a picture right then and there and sends it to me. This is September's result.
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I was watching the Daily Creative the other day. I don’t always watch it, but for whatever reason I watched the whole thing.
So you don’t have to watch the 15 minute video (unless you want to), I’ll recap it:
People call in with questions and Chase Jarvis answers them. The first callers question was:
“I’m doing everything I can and yet my work isn’t getting any traction.”
Chase went in a looked at his websites to gather some more information. After taking a look at everything he made three suggestions.
The guy had been a photographer for 2 years, had a portfolio that covered travel, food, and architecture, he had been posting on YouTube for month. His suggestions makes sense.
Shortly after I started working at SUU I got into a conversation with one of the Vice Presidents and he made some passing comment about how young people always want the corner office before they’re 30. He didn’t direct it at me but he was talking about me.
I have some ambition. It’s still hard to admit that. Ambition is both a good and a bad thing. My ambition drives me to make progress and to push myself from where I am to where I want to be. That same ambition clouds my judgement in how long I think it should take until I get there.
As soon as I gain a little bit of skill it feels like I’ve arrived. I can gain proficiency quickly. I can also get comfortable in the task and when I hit that comfort that’s when I get in trouble and all progress stops.
After going through the motions of lifting weights for nearly a year I was doing a set of preacher curls. I don’t know why it was this time that it stood out but I noticed that I wasn’t feeling the lift in my biceps. I can’t say that I ever had. This bothered me. I should have felt burn in my biceps.
I had gotten comfortable in the lift. I was going through the motions.
It took me a few times but I started to focus on which of my muscles were lifting the weight. Turned out it was my back. In order to isolate my biceps in the lift I needed to engage my abs. That stabilized my core and allowed my biceps to do the lifting.
I had read about the importance lifting with an engaged core. But, I had no idea what that meant until I experienced it and felt the difference.
That explains everything.
Even if I watch someone go through an impressive change and come out ahead, whether that’s through weight loss, career goals, making money, or a great relationship. What I don’t experience is the process it took to get from point A to point B.
That’s the root of my impatience.
As much as I’d like to think that I can see someone else’s experience and make it my own. I have to go through the experience myself.
For a long time I would beat myself up about that about not being able to learn from someone else. But that’s my reality. The sooner that I accept that the better off I’d be. Even as I write I still struggle with accepting the process.
This ambition and lack of patience is directly connected to my post about money showing value. Before value can be earned there has be a certain skillset. That skill set comes from practicing over time to the point mastery.
I did a podcast with Peter Sham and mentioned mastery to him and he fought me on it. Told me didn’t think mastery existed. Which I get, the concept that we’re constantly learning and the more we know the more we don’t know. When I say mastery I mean efficiency and proficiency of a skill.
My dad is a nurse anesthetist. While I was in high school the primary anesthesia he provided was epidurals. The first time I really understood what that meant was when we went to the bodies exhibit.
My dad called me over to show me the base of the spinal cord. There are a group of nerve endings that hang down like the back of a mini mullet. An epidural is pushing a ten inch needle through those nerves. If the nerves are hit the person becomes paralyzed.
My dad talks about giving epidurals casually. Apparently, he’s good at it because in high school I a lot more random women tell me how much they loved my dad when they heard my last name (true story).
That level of proficiency takes more that just hobby level skills. He is a master at that task. This mastery didn’t stop him from progressing and getting better.
That’s what I mean by mastery.
My dad didn’t just wake up one day and was great at epidurals. He worked…hard.
It is easy to want everything right now. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like I deserve the reward right now for the work I’m doing or even the work I think I’m going to do.
Most people’s success doesn’t come until their 40’s. Despite living in an information age craft is still a large part of what we do. Developing a craft takes time.
Robert Greene outlines this path to mastery in his book Mastery. It’s well worth the read or the listen. Here’s the five step process path sums up what he covers.
What is it that you’re working on that you hope to master?
What have you mastered already?
What’s your process like?
Every once in a while I get the ambition to make a new food. It’s never from one of those “Tasty” Facebook videos. Something transformative. Something that I probably have no business trying to make.
The most recent was ramen (not the packaged kind).
Ramen is a bit of a rage. Apparently it’s a big deal in Japan.
I first heard about “real” ramen a couple of years ago while I was working in Salt Lake. A friend of mine suggested we get ramen for dinner. Part of me snickered. A bigger part of me was intrigued.
Before this, my ramen experience was typical, boiled noodles in packaged broth. Or, if we were feeling really crazy, dry noodles sprinkled with the dry broth.
In college I had a roommate who was a ramen wizard. He could turn instant ramen into something completely different than my read-the-direction experience. He used the noodles as a foundation to construct the meal instead of as an end. His ramen transformation revealed the potential that ramen possessed.
This restaurant, however, was very different. It was a little like pho (which is already on my list and completely intimidating). The noodles were chewy. The broth complex. In the end the food was okay, but it opened the ramen door a little further.
While traveling, again for work, I looked up ramen place in Las Vegas. Following the directions in Google Maps I ended up in a strip mall in Chinatown. The place was small and dingy. And the ramen? Amazing.
I caught a glimpse of what the fuss was about.
There are two major elements to ramen, the broth and the noodles. In the research I did about ramen most of the focus is on the broth. Most of the time the noodles are bought.
There’s still a part of me that rebels when someone tells me I can’t do something, or shouldn’t do something, or it’s not typical to do something. That and I owned a pasta maker. I’ve make noodles. Noodles can’t be that hard.
I picked a weekend to take on ramen and started prepping. Lots of research. Part of that research was Chef’s Table. A Netflix series that typically focuses on high end restaurants. The white coat, tweezer wielding kind of restaurants.
In season 3 episode 4 they cover Ivan Orkin, a Jewish New Yorker who made a name for himself in Japan with ramen. Apparently, extremely impressive.
Despite the intimidation of listening to an expert talk about the food they specialize in I went ahead with my plans to make ramen, noodles and all.
I used the recipe from Lucky Peach (I was planning on putting the link to the recipe here. Between then and now Lucky Peach has dissolved) which talks about making as alkaline noodle. To get that noodle I had to bake baking soda. The heat changes the chemical makeup of the baking soda and gives the noodles a different texture.
I just did what I was told and followed the recipe.
The dough is tougher than pasta dough and needs to be worked more so there is more gluten. The high gluten helps prevent mushy noodles when sitting in the broth.
I made the dough a day ahead and just wrapped it in cellophane and put in the fridge. I don’t think this was the best idea. There ended up being a lot of condensation on the dough and I needed to add a lot more flour to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Next time I will make them same day and either let them dry or make the soup right away. If anything can be made ahead of time it’s the broth.
As far as the broth goes I was planning on making a vegetarian broth. The original plan was make my own stock (also on my list). That proved to be a little too ambitious for one weekend.
I changed from vegetarian to chicken when I found chicken stock and chicken boobs on sale. I still used the vegetarian base (olive oil, onion, garlic and ginger) and added the chicken stalk with chicken in the soup.
The broth turned out good, not great. I underestimated what medium high was on my electric stove. The pot got way to hot way too quickly. When I was sautéing the onions, garlic and ginger in olive oil I burned a few and they didn’t cook down to what they should have.
Because of this experience I am convinced that 60% of cooking is understanding how the tools and methods work. After knowing that I can use the right one to get the results I want.
After the sautéd the vegetables I added the broth, some soy sauce and sesame oil, got it to a boil and the let it simmer. It smelled amazing. It simmered for about 3 hours. The longer it simmers the deeper the flavor.
Once the two main players are done it’s about the toppings. These can include vegetables, meat, and eggs. Medium boiled eggs are pretty traditional and my kids like eggs so I went with that along with some chicken.
The eggs ended up being the best part of the dish, and probably the easiest thing to make.
The chicken was done on the BBQ because I completely forgot about them. I cooked some chicken not too long ago and this is the best way I’ve found to do chicken on the BBQ.
Putting it all together.
The noodles are flash cooked for 60 seconds. From the pot of water and into the bowl. I strained the broth so that it removed the chunks of onions, garlic and ginger. I cut the chicken and halved the eggs and threw those in. My wife garnished it with cilantro which took it up a notch.
All in all a decent win. My kids loved the broth and the eggs. The noodles ended up too baking soda-y. After some more research I'll be ready to try round 2.
On the second Sunday of every month my family gets together to have dinner. During that dinner we celebrate whatever holiday or birthdays are happening that month. It’s a great way to optimize our time and stay connected.
In June we celebrated father's days. To celebrate we exchanged gifts and watched this:
I knew that my parents sacrificed a lot to raise me. Now that I have kids I have a greater understanding of the things they sacrificed to provide the life that we have now.
For that, I am grateful.
There have been a few times that my wife has asked me if I had a good childhood. Despite typical teenaged angst I am able to recognize the incredible experiences that I had. So, yes, I had a pretty great childhood.
At one point my mom and I ended up sitting down and having a conversation about sacrifice. Rather than the typical conversation about ancestral sacrifice she told me about her friend that doing some missionary work on a Native Reservation.
They are working specifically with high school aged youth. At one point the youth were invited to their house. I don’t know what this missionary did before he retired but he made a good living. He and his wife live in a very nice house.
For one particular young man it was the first time he had come across this kind of money in real life. Experiencing something that is so far from reality has the ability create a paradigm shift.
This young man asked the missionary, “How do I get here? How do I get what you have?”
The answers to these seemingly impossible questions are always simple.
The missionary responded with, “Stay in school and work hard.”
While the answers may be simple the process of putting them into reality are never easy.
My brother and I often talk about a sociology study that looked at the projects in New York. The researcher talked about how the only thing that young people need to do to make it out of the projects is to get a minimum wage job. Yet, almost none of them do it.
After telling this story to my mom she talked about my dad. My dad was the first in his family attend college. He's told me on more that one occasion that during high school he felt like he was destined to graduate from high school and get job. That was the norm for his friends. Lucky for me he was driven for something different.
He broke the social expectation he grew up in. He saw what his potential was and stretched himself to make it happen. Because of his sacrifice I have enjoyed privileges I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
I like to think I am making similar sacrifices for my kids. But I don’t want to focus on sacrifice in this post, although that has a bit to do with it. I want to focus on breaking out of social expectation.
I am inherently social. Who I surround myself with has a big impact on who I am. When I spend longer than a couple of days in Canada I will start to speak like a Canadian.
There is a theory that we are the average of the five people we spend our time with.
I have spent most of my life thinking that I was the exception to everything. I was somehow a maverick in everything I did. The more I learn about evolutionary psychology and my own biology I realize that a lot me is natural response not deliberate choice.
This concept of being the average of the people I spent my time with became very clear when I tried to start going to the gym.
The only reason I had any success going to the gym was because of my friend Mark. If ever had a chance to see Mark you’d understand. It wasn’t uncommon for people to come up to me in the gym and ask me what I was paying Mark to be my personal trainer. He’s a big dude.
Eventually his habits eventually became mine.
If I want to change my situation, whatever that might look like, I can do it myself fighting agains the social expectations of my circle of friends. Or, I can change my social circle and let their influence help me develop new habits.
Not only is the social plan easier it’s way more sustainable.
Changing social circles is intimidating. Reaching outside of my comfort zone causes fear and anxiety. That’s why teenagers don’t get jobs at McDonalds to get out of the projects. Social fear is very real.
Here’s what I’ve found, especially recently. When there is genuine interest in other people, those people will open up.
We live in an age of facade and filters. Authenticity is hard to come by. When I am authentically interested in another person they open up. There is real connection. When that happens my social circle grows and starts to change.
I’ll give you an example.
I recently met a successful real estate agent. We had a few things in common but mostly I was very curious about real estate. That genuine interest got him to open his mouth and gave some insight into a different way of thinking. I learned a lot and got a new friend. It was a win/win.
Real change doesn’t happen overnight. Just like friends aren’t made in one 15 minute conversation. Things take time and they take work. Just like the advice that the missionary gave that kid. Stay in school and work hard.
What level do you want to get to and what social expectations are preventing you from getting there?
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