Presidential Fitness and Lifestyle Marketing

https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/obesity-and-covid-19.html

I have a theory about obesity. Why is it on the rise? Is it because our marketing has improved? Or is it because we have not taken marketing seriously enough?

Marketing is a debate. It is an argument made by an organization in favor of a product or service. People are influenced by marketing. That is undeniable. The rise in obesity has coincided with the popularity of social media. Are people so distracted and seduced by what they are seeing on their phones, that they are unable to resist temptation? 

How have people been convinced that the pleasure they get from eating junk food is better than the pleasure they would feel from being physically fit? If we believe that marketing works then why don’t we market back harder? At least that would be a plan of action. Why don’t we offer products that are better, that have nutritional value, and market the absolute hell out of them? 

It’s time for the health-conscious industry to start breaking out the big guns. We can wait till people start demanding better options, or we can create them and provide tremendous value to a public with a lot of problems. Obesity is an entirely preventable condition, and it will only take a decision to aggressively market a healthy relationship to food and body size. 

One of the problems we have had so far is that some of the people who work in the fitness industry in one way or another have been effective at marketing to people who are already actively trying to get fit, but they have been heavy handed and flat footed when it comes to recruiting people to join their movement. Arnold Schwarzenegger made presidential fitness cool in the early 90s for a minute, but it was ultimately a flop. 

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/statement-the-appointment-arnold-schwarzenegger-chairman-the-presidents-council-physical

Fitness has been on the agenda for the U.S. since the 1950s. According to the official U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, the council “began in 1956, when President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. After more than 6 decades, we are now the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, and we strive to engage, educate, and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.”

One of the key words that keeps coming up in my research of this topic is lifestyle. As someone who does content marketing, lifestyle photography is a big part of what I think about and practice. Lifestyle marketing is a massive part of how social media marketing works and it only makes sense for people who care about health to promote their message, to market their lifestyle, on those channels. Unfortunately, they are not living up to their own mission statement: to engage, educate, and empower. At best, they are doing some good in the second category, but without channels on all the relevant social media platforms how do they imagine they will create engagement?

We must not continue to fail in the competition for the public’s attention. Brands selling junk food understand the power of marketing and are winning the day. So-called health food is still a niche market. Organic is becoming more and more mainstream, but too slowly. If we truly want to promote healthy lifestyles to prevent disease and to create competitive advantage, then we need to market the lifestyle. 

Imagine if the U.S. Department of Health took an aggressive approach and invested heavily in social media and content marketing. Nolan Ryan and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the two famous influencers they have used in the past and they did have an impact. They were influential. Imagine if the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition were able to recruit thousands or hundreds of thousands of influencers to promote their message. What if brands who want to produce health-conscious food products were given loans or grants to develop and market those products?

We are losing the health wars. Michelle Obama started an initiative called “Let’s Move” that had a strong ambition. Their website states that they are “dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation.” Their methodology on how to achieve that was not and is not robust enough to even move the needle in the right direction. Indeed, rates of obesity are increasing with no sign of moving in the opposite direction. We can’t imagine that simply providing people with education about fitness is going to motivate them to make the lifestyle changes necessary. Lifestyle marketing is the answer to the lifestyle problem that is linked to obesity. If we want people to eat better and to exercise more, then we need to develop those products and market the lifestyle. It is a contest for the attention of the U.S. public’s attention and the side selling junk food and sedentary entertainment sure are not waiting around to see if people will choose them. They are aggressively marketing a lifestyle based around their products, and it is working.

Challenging Writing and Active Voice

What writing addresses high stakes situations with straightforward clarity, today? Where do we find writing that seeks to serve the reader, to take them on a journey and to give them some valuable takeaway after the narrative is finished? When is writing is more of a boot camp than a roller coaster? What kinds of writing seek to transform a reader through stimulating intellectual growth? Some writing is purposefully difficult, and some writing is meant to be easily consumed. Some writing acts as a prompt, as a call to action for the reader. Other writing is like a roller coaster offering us a way to pass the time with maximal entertainment value for minimal effort.

Challenging writing asks the reader to be an active participant. It serves as an invitation to focus your intellect on thinking about a problem or an opportunity. In analyzing a situation, it maps out the potential and points the reader to possible paths of action. It asks you to imagine a world and to consider what kinds of problems you would face if you were living in that world. People join cross fit gyms to build up their physical strength and they read challenging writing to increase their mental strength.

Roller coaster writing is like so many things in our culture: it’s fun. A lot of our culture is designed to give us cheap thrills. Roller coaster writing seems like it’s covering a serious situation with high stakes, but in reality it is safe and is a disposable experience. We get the adrenaline rush without the reality. The only effort we make is in experiencing the ride. The roller coaster dominates our experience.

Challenging writing often practices active voice. Active voice situates us psychologically in a position of understanding and clarity. We are making up the world in our imaginations as we read. The text is a map that orients us and gives us direction. The journey is a kind of mental workout that builds strength and gives us a point of reference for future work. Writing that strives to create action in the reader generally uses the active voice for the sake of clarity and the impact of being straightforward.

Why try to draw a distinction between challenging and other writing? We have so many high stakes situations facing us today. Coming together to face and fix some of the problems we can actually solve will build some momentum in a direction we favor. If we want more social equity, then we need to think clearly, to analyze a plan, and to make decisions consistent with our values.

Great writing challenges us to be accountable for our thinking. It points to the things that we can change and draws out examples of what can be done. Challenging writing takes a defensible stand by earning whatever position it maintains. This writing uses the power of analysis to explain a point of view. Through explaining why something is important and how it has been formed, the value of the writing becomes self-evident. It teaches us something that we can replicate for ourselves.

We need challenging writing more now than ever so that we can face the problems of our current situation and begin to move from an increasingly chaotic situation to more equitable and socially stable dynamic. We need to appeal to those with resources to invest in ways that will benefit the community and increase the common good.

Transparency, Privacy and Competition

The way we live now is wild. Reality television has mushroomed into a massive social media explosion. What people show on Instagram is sometimes as fake and scripted as what happens on produced reality television programming. At the same time, people are also sharing too much real information online a lot of the time in ways that professional media outlets wouldn’t, and for good reasons. When does transparency go too far and become a total lack of privacy? What guidelines should we be establishing to safely and effectively use social media? How is this dynamic driven by competition?

Is there any chance that we can work our way out of this mess and back into simpler times? Are we hunters, farmers, doctors, soldiers, influencers, cyborgs or what? People have taken on varied roles in different periods of history. Right now, we are in a period of historical transition and it is especially important to experiment and to envision new ways of doing things. Sometimes, those experiments and periods of growth might best be done in privacy for the sake of going through the process of trial and error without an audience. 

Is it possible to grow and change for the better in a world dominated by social media culture? Or do we just have to change our attitude about cultural productions and the value of making mistakes in public. This might sound strange, but it happens all the time with podcasts. Sometimes a certain amount of dysfunction makes it more relatable to listen to. It’s more like real life. Some podcasts are so polished and produced you feel like you should brush your hair and put on some nicer clothes before you listen. Oftentimes we want something a little more relaxed.

Maybe competition is a normal human response, and the way it’s happening online is simply an extension of how we compare and debate the merits of each other’s lifestyle points in analog life. Martha Stewart was an influencer before there were lifestyle blogs. The number of people who are now able to create content and connect with an online audience is radically and exponentially increased. The Internet adds scale to lifestyle marketing in a completely new way. When it becomes interactive, it becomes much bigger and more differentiated. There is a lifestyle influencer for any imaginable cultural niche. 

While this new media has also created a new economy, we are still working out how all these new forces function. We are in the infancy stages of social media and haven’t developed enough best practices to know what we are doing. It can be a wild and dangerous combination when businesses experience massive scaling through the internet and people are suddenly thrust into positions of immense power and responsibility. Since these massive fortunes have been created within our lifetimes, there is a learning curve like never before. We have new money, oh boy do we have new money.

Bezos, in talking about the infrastructure bill said that he hopes the initiative will help to keep a competitive advantage for the US. His official statement reads: “We look forward to Congress and the Administration coming together to find the right, balanced solution that maintains or enhances U.S. competitiveness.” In that statement you can grasp something of our reality. We don’t live in isolation; we exist in competition. We have to remain aware of external threats to our security. If we don’t do this, they might do that. Businesses may be multinational, but they have national roots. Lifestyle might be the focus of a majority of social media, but it is made possible by macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns.

The policy of the US has historically been isolationist, but in a world with internet and nuclear weapons that is absurd. We are interconnected, and we have to figure out how to make that reality work best for the common good. With the Internet, that means business and social networking opportunities. While we strive to grow and connect to more people, the sense of our identity comes into play.

As long as our interconnectedness comes with the threat of violence, with an attempt at domination, then we will continue to make decisions that give us a competitive advantage. There are some situations, even in a world with hostile threats, where being competitive is counterproductive. If we want to enhance our competitive advantage, then we should be working on creating a stronger sense of team spirit and camaraderie, but we should also look for opportunities for cultural exchange. We most likely have more to gain from transacting with each other than we have to fear from losing our competitive advantage.

Why the Future Belongs to Stoners part 1

There’s nothing wrong with cannabis. It’s a beautiful plant with amazing flowers and effects. As with the pineapple, the pomegranate and the papaya, Cannabis is a naturally occurring living organism with many properties beneficial to health and wellness for humans and even for other animals. 

Sometimes people complain of feeling anxiety or sleepiness when they consume THC. This could be for a number of reasons. Different strains can have different effects, but also farmers are not equally good at growing weed. Cannabis is not like apples. It is a boutique crop, a difficult flower to grow well. The difference in the experience of consumption between top shelf flower and run of the mill boof is night and day and the pricing in dispensaries reflects this reality.

The quality of the crop is what matters most about cannabis, and one way cannabis brands are marketing the quality of their flowers is through high THC numbers in their testing. While the cannabinoid percentages do matter, they are no clear indication of the quality of the flower or of your experience if you were to consume it. In order to really use cannabis effectively, you have to find a farm that grows flowers that you enjoy. It’s really that simple. You have to just experiment until you find the right farm and usually that will keep you connected to the best benefits that cannabis can offer.

Besides the quality of the flowers, though, there is a big reason why people feel tired or anxious when they consume cannabis. This is because it is pointing out the problems they are not dealing with. When people get stoned, it often causes introspection and analysis over the problems, especially social situations, that are on your mind. It brings those things you are worrying about to the front of your attention. This is one of the reasons why stoners will win in the end. It causes self-reflection and that is the gateway to self-improvement and that is the gateway to being a better member of a community and that is the gateway to security and happiness. So yes, it is a gateway drug.

The Verge of Something Big

The world is populated by 7.75 billion people. The United States alone has upwards of 330 million according to the US Census Bureau. It’s starting to feel a little bit crowded, and heaven knows we could use a few more planets to stretch our legs and really get a chance to unwind. Wouldn’t that be nice? Just you, your own terraformed acre of Mars, all hipstered out with air plants hanging on industrial walls. I can picture it now. I can almost smell the oatmilk steaming.

Is there really any other choice? None that isn’t a war crime has been on the agenda.

While life seems to be on a one-way track to cybernetics and interstellar existence, there’s no certainty that we will reach this lofty goal. Still, you have to wonder how close we are getting. Some of those robotic prototypes being developed by Boston Dynamics have looked scary for at least six years by now, but last summer during the chaos of the pandemic they teamed up with Ford to develop Fluffy the Robot Dog

This dog has four legs and prances around the factory, but instead of a head it has a configuration of cameras and scanners. Ford has been using Fluffy to create three dimensional maps of their manufacturing spaces and providing writers with science fiction scenarios that are now all too believable. If Ford is using robot dogs to save money and enhance efficiency, we can be sure that more robots are on their way.

Should we be scared of these robot dogs? Of course. The potential nightmare scenarios are baked into the technology, but are those real concerns or just fantasies of nervous techies? If the ways we have adapted to technology are useful predictors of how it will go in the future, then you can be sure that robot dogs will be used for the full range of their potential for benevolent and malicious purposes. That’s what humans do with technology. They find every possible use and then a bunch more. 

What’s the upside? No more trying to breed poodles with other dogs for people with allergies. Instead of shedding hair, dogs will soon be vacuuming. Is the era of the Jetson’s finally here? 

I will believe in technology more once we solve some of the major social problems here, like homelessness. Take that as an example. Homelessness has been on the rise and has reached tragic levels here and all around the country. There are people who are outside of society with little hope of making their way back to a normal lifestyle. What if Elon Musk implants some of his neuralink devices in homeless people and they transform into superstar celebrities of different fields in a couple of months? What then? You know what happens.

We are all getting that thing implanted in our heads. 

What about virtual reality? How is that going to come into play? In a world with robots and artificial intelligence, we are also advancing our abilities to create worlds that are believable but that don’t exist. Alex Honnald recently discussed on Joe Rogan’s podcast that he is developing a virtual reality climb so people can experience what it looks like to see him climbing from the perspective of someone perched on the cliff. 

With robots, neuralink implants and virtual reality on the horizon how will that divide people in the near future? Will we become two different species?

Elon Musk has envisioned a future where speaking is no longer necessary. What will that do to human psychology? With neural implants, what happens to the unconscious? If the unconscious is truly structured like a language as Lacan suggests, then what happens when language becomes less relevant? What are the potential psycho-sexual side effects of this plan?

While there are definitely some questions that have terrifying potential, things could also go well. The bright side of this transformation could be the chance to connect with likeminded people around the globe. Think about it this way. With 7.75 billion people in this world, there have to be an impossibly large number of people with whom you might have incredible professional and personal relationships, but as things are now you will never know of their existence. If technology renders language irrelevant andreveals the truth of who we are, maybe we will actually get to meet the people we would get along with best. 

That utopian vision seems a long ways off, but with how things are advancing you always have to keep in mind the potential of exponential growth and acceleration. We are on the verge of something big.

Why We Shouldn’t Hate Hippies

Hippies get a bad name, man. In order to understand why this group is so reviled, you don’t have to look at history. You only need to go to your local farmer’s market and not be suffering from Covid. The nose knows. These people don’t care what you think at all. But are they really hippies, or are they stinky fakes?

That’s like seeing someone in line at the liquor store wearing a wetsuit and then thinking that all surfers are idiots. That’s not a surfer; it’s a kook! Kooks are notorious for glomming onto the limelight, since they are interested in surfing not for how it makes them feel or how it challenges them to grow, but because they want to be cool. It’s the same with hippies, brah. The funk is real, but the character is not.

Now we all know wanting to be cool immediately makes you uncool. Some clever marketers, clever but not wise, have seen how widespread this tendency to be unreal is and have started marketing to kooks, blatantly. Instead of taking surfing seriously, they fully embrace the flail and celebrate this ineptitude with puns and ironic hairstyles. For some people, surfing is a religion. For others, a way to try and get laid.

Surfing attracts people from all walks of life, but most of the surfers I have known who really deserve respect are nothing like the stereotype. Surfing is a magical activity, but one that is full of ironies. When a human synchronizes their movements with the natural energy of a breaking wave, it is truly something astounding. To be good at surfing requires a lot of time studying the water and taking it seriously, like any other art form. But you can get a wetsuit and a soft-top and someone somewhere will mistake you for a surfer.

It’s the same with hippies. There are fake hippies galore, and they are the ones replicating the negative stereotypes. There are real hippies, too. There are sincerely optimistic folks out there working to make another way of living a reality. They are too busy doing the hard work of regenerative farming to be clowning around downtown. 

Every lifestyle has its serious practitioners and its superficial fakes. Since these lifestyles are not mainstream, the public is easily misled about them. They see the fakes and don’t know better. How would you? It takes time to understand the authentic article hiding among the counterfeit. 

Who gets to say who is real and who is fake in any particular lifestyle? We don’t have the hippy Olympics. Maybe we should, though. Professional surfing puts any doubts to rest about the levels that people can take that activity. If you could watch the dude who wears his wetsuit to buy his craft beer you would see his inexperience within about two minutes of being in the water. Meanwhile, any of the pros or even just competitive surfers in this region are able to milk the last drop of potential out of every swell that rolls through town. The difference between their performances is unmistakable.

Same goes with hippies. We aren’t really seeing the awesome ones. They are cross breeding landrace heritage cannabis cultivars with regional genetics that have been tried and true somewhere rad up in the mountains. They are planning psychedelic voyages and growing their own food. They are making advances in sustainable development. We don’t hate hippies; we don’t know them. We only see their imitators.

Who are these people who invade a lifestyle and make it so lame? Let’s be honest. They are techies who have enough fuck-you money to not care that they are being absolute douche canoes in the water or at a health food store. Horrible insecurities that are buttressed by financial success is a recipe for the fake hippy, the kook or the wannabe artist. How many people buy a dream for a couple of years, but never put the work in to make it a reality?

The truth to life is that anything you want to do well is going to take a lot of hard work for most people. But the people who are doing the hard work are not usually looking for attention. They may want to do business, but they are fulfilled by the life they lead and aren’t hungry souls siphoning attention from curious tourists eager to see a real Santa Cruz hippy. They will be tending to their work, helping their families, being valued members of their community.

We are only seeing the surface of things and in this state of oversimplification we are not only seeing a caricature of reality, but we are seeing a fake caricature. The connection between the stereotype and the reality is ingenuous. It is only when we begin to realize what a horrible version of subcultures we have received that we will start to see the world for what it really is. The good parts are oftentimes not going to be the most obvious.

We shouldn’t hate hippies for their followers.

Lights, Camera, Influence! Social Media and Social Change Makers

What is digital culture? Culture is one of those all-encompassing concepts that is hazy and hard to see, like Society, and with 5G Internet it is omnipresent. Digital culture is like the smell of air. It’s gotta have one, but we only smell things that are floating in the air, like a puff of weed. Digital culture is both the cannabis we smoke and the air it is blown into. 

Humans project cultural understandings and misreadings onto the world. Through interpreting the signs around us, we recognize the existence of other cultures, subcultures, even microcultures. Culture is the totality of our collective consciousness and its expression. It is an awareness of our differences and an articulation of those difference in form. Learning happens as individuals act, transact, and are acted upon. Digital culture is a massive conversation and collaboration among billions of people.

Culture breaks down into smaller and smaller sub-cultures online. The smaller the niche the more distinct the code. Language is one key part of cultures, and you can see how this local specificity develops in smaller and smaller places with language through slang. This tendency of creating inside jokes, insider codes, is an engine of diversity. If we are constantly addressing the specifics of our spaces and our experiences, then our communications will become narrower and narrower as we adapt to be useful in that specific place. 

Just like breathing, the way we experience culture happens both voluntarily and involuntarily. As long as we are alive and interacting, we are a part of culture, but with conscious effort we can amplify our effect. We can get more out of and give more back to our culture by taking an active role. 

The Internet radically changed the way our culture grows and shifts. In addition to the way language and fashion diversify and differentiate influenced by local conditions, the interactive space of the digital network–the world wide web—creates another layer of cultural exchange. What does a website like OnlyFans do to our idea of what our neighbors may be up to? In a world with millions of podcasts, there are more people actively shaping culture than ever before. In that sense, we are becoming more democratic. 

Because of the broadening of cultural participation through social media, there is a much more chaotic cultural scene. Internet culture is so interesting because it accelerates the broader culture in two distinctly different directions. On the one hand it allows for an alliance between cultural misfits, for better or worse. People who are in the minority culturally in their geographical location can connect to likeminded people through the Internet. This networking supports and sustains their culture. Culture needs attention to grow. 

Content creators have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of culture. There are steps a thoughtful creator can take to be more conscious in designing content to have desired effects. There are parts of the larger cultural contexts we want to change, and by understanding the power of cultural influence we can push the needle in the direction we think will be safe, fun and profitable. 

Every time we do a photo shoot, record a podcast, publish a blog and share a story we are starting a conversation. The more effective we are at getting people to care about the things we are interested in, the greater our influence.

You just have to know that the potential is locked away inside of people and change is possible. Listening to Jane Goodall talk about being plant-based inspired me to give it a try. That is one month of not eating meat that is directly attributable to one podcast. I was in a place where I was all but ready to experiment with a plant-based diet and Goodall’s stoic steadfast point of view added that last nudge of encouragement I needed. I’m back to eating meat because I found it impossible to eat enough protein on a vegetarian diet, but it was a great challenge, and is making me more conscious about what I eat and eating more plants than I was before. 

That is an example of a moment when something changed for me culturally. It is a significant change, and a voluntary one. Being inspired to try plant-based eating creates cultural conflict, too. It means joining a minority group. Changing a habit means potentially offending people who are used to that habit. I don’t judge people for what they eat. When you are the only one who can’t eat a family dinner, however, it might not feel that way to everyone. 

Making anything significant culturally means making some kind of cultural change. It doesn’t have to limit anyone else’s options, but even through expanding a new direction, breaking original ground an idea can be revolutionary. Silicon Valley fell in love with the word disruptive because it minted a lot of new billionaires, but it is more than just disruptive when new ways of sharing and creating culture emerge. Disrupting the culture of gatekeeping has been a good thing for innovation.

This is just the beginning phase of social media, though. I think that the first chapter of social media closed with the storming of the capital. That was a moment when we no longer could deny what had been obvious for a decade: the internet is transforming our culture. Social media is not a cute pastime. It is the new stage. It is a stage of development when subcultures can grow in strength and numbers and have undeniable effects on the real world.

This is a moment when we can participate in the process of cultural change, by exercising our powers of imagination. We are taste makers, conversation starters and innovators of culture. Welcome to the show. Prepare to be influenced.

Mental Fitness: Training for Health

Mental health should be a major topic of concern around the world as we find ourselves more than a year into a global pandemic. Signs of things opening up are starting to inspire hope about a less restrictive future, but we are also seeing a loss of control in the release of the tension people are feeling. It is going to be very easy to diagnose poor mental health in the coming months and years, but the question is: what can we do to improve our mental health, overall?

The basics of mental health are very similar to physical health. We can be more proactive if we look at our mental and physical capacities in terms of fitness instead of health. Striving for fitness goals is an effective way of promoting and protecting good health. In order to be fit, you have to eat well and exercise regularly. The results of the work are evident in how you feel and how you are able to perform. The more extreme the training, the higher the threshold of possible achievement is, with a point of diminishing return where more work doesn’t lead to the same degree of gains.

Navy Seals train rigorously so that they will be prepared to remain functional under extreme duress. This is one extreme end of the physical fitness spectrum, but their work also includes mental training. All training helps both mind and body, but the more you include technical skills into the training the more interactive the mind and body in training become. Being able to think and communicate, to interact skillfully during physical exertion is a measure of total mind/body fitness.

The same habits that lead to physical fitness can also lead to mental fitness. Creating a training schedule designed to promote strengthening of physical and mental abilities will provide the structure needed to sustain and understand the results of this kind of work. If you are able to effectively perform both mental and physical challenges for a sustained period of time, then you can be said to be sound of mind and body and in good health. Instead of waiting to diagnose an illness, we can choose fitness as a path to well being.

If our diet and our exercise affect both our mental and physical health, what about the things we consume and produce? Is there some kind of calorie-in/ calorie-out ratio when it comes to mental consumption of cultural artifacts? If you are what you eat, what about the culture that you consume? How does what we read and see affect our physical health? How does thinking about what we consume in culture help us to assimilate or eliminate ideas and energies?

Thinking about mental health as a result of good mental fitness practices opens up all kinds of questions and points to exciting directions for research. The method of separating people in to athletes and intellectuals, jocks and nerds is becoming more and more evidently bad form. Instead, we should strive for balanced well functioning minds and bodies. Through training, we can achieve greater degrees of mind/body fitness.

As we attempt to recover physically, mentally and financially from this pandemic, focusing on best practices for physical and mental fitness will help immensely to promote good mental and physical health. 

Right or Happy? Aiming for Rappy

There are so many contexts in our lives where being right is rewarded. We grow up going to school being evaluated on how often we are right and wrong with tests and the feeling sticks. Being wrong equates to failure and punishment. Being right means advancing and claiming the rewards. When we’re incentivized to be right for so many of our formative years, how are we supposed to switch modes and interact in a relationship where sometimes being right is less important than being happy?

It takes a lot of work to break a habit, but first you have to recognize the mindset. Then you have to identify: when is it important to be right and when can I be flexible in my beliefs? There are definitely still some situations where being right is critical. If you are wanting to cross through a field, but one person sees that it is full of poison oak that could save the group a lot of unwanted pain and suffering. In that case, you want to be right. If you are going to identify and eat wild mushrooms, you want to be right.

In those cases, being right could save people from pain, but it is a last resort. You are stopping action, calling out a wrong. It is inherently a negative action. Major bummer, dude. When life and limb are on the line, you’re right to criticize someone’s bad idea but it’s still a buzz kill, bud. 

It’s a trade-off, though, because in the act of saving the group from potential harm you are hurting the person who had the bad idea. It makes you look like Captain Save-a-bro. What you gain is offset by what you lose. A wise friend wouldn’t want to look for these opportunities, because you’re inevitably going to hurt someone you value to save other people from harm. It is not a great scenario from the jump. In these cases, being right is a necessary wrong.

I’m not saying that you should give up critical thinking. I am suggesting that for me I had to and still have to identify a pattern of wanting to be right that is not always helpful. Instead, sometimes it is better for me to humble myself and to open up to the idea of learning. 

Discovering something new is more exciting than being right, for sure. Being knowledgeable is one thing, thinking that you are right is another. If you shift your goal from being right to coming up with the best idea by being open to learning from other viewpoints, then you stand a better chance of innovating and growing together instead of always being stuck in conflict. You gotta follow to lead sometimes, bro.

There are other ways where it’s a benefit to being wrong. I want to be wrong some of the time. I want the world to be safer and I hope that it proves me wrong. I want money to be easier to make and it very well could be. Usually, if we are engaged in arguing and are trying to be right, it’s because we have too much faith in a preconceived notion. 

Being open to change means staying honest about how things are going. That might be the hardest part. Understanding that there may be better ways to do things is humbling but can lead to growth. It also helps you to keep your sense of humor.

We develop best practices in life through the habitual adherence to what works. We have corn pone opinions and that’s it, bro, but opinions are not the end all be all. I’m telling you sis, there are other ways to think about this situation. We don’t have to abandon our values to consider the idea that there might be a better idea. The best idea for the common good should win. 

Where are your lines? What are your lines? Sometimes having a good rap can help you to steer an interaction in a positive direction. You want to make sure that your rap matches your reality, though. No cap. To rap is to run game. Usually when game runs there are hunters standing by with guns. In this case it is about managing wildlife, not looking for trophies. You can run game to keep the peace. 

In other words, you can’t get out of having to be right sometimes, but if you practice techniques of communicating your ideas then you can sometimes steer the course of action in a good direction without impeding the happiness of the group. When life serves you up a situation where you can’t sacrifice being right to being happy, aim for rappy. 

Rappy is being persuasive without being argumentative. It starts with your intentions to guide things in a direction you believe to be positive without stepping on your collaborators’ toes. It is about finding the artistry of influence without causing a fight. Listening to other ideas and wanting what they want for them helps to position you so that when you nudge slightly in a different direction you have their trust. 

If we can learn to be rappy, it’s going to save us a lot of headaches. 

Creativity or Discipline?: Art Matters

What is the relationship between discipline and creativity? On the surface, these things seem to be opposites. Discipline implies consistency and regularity. Creativity suggests variety and spontaneity. What is the image of discipline in the US? What is our idea of creativity? What is the reality?

Creativity comes from a variety of places, including trauma. Art is sometimes a response to an emotional need, to a state of shock. The thing is, not everyone who experiences trauma creates art, and not all experiences are equally traumatizing. 

Will power, or the continuity of choice, is one of the factors that transforms traumatic feelings into creativity.  What is the difference between someone who is damaged by a traumatic experience versus someone who is able to transfigure their pain into poetry? It is their willingness to practice. Of course, not all art comes from traumatic feelings.

Another aspect of creativity is choice. Creativity isn’t found in one thing or another. Creativity is the ability to choose.  Art can be any combination of aesthetic qualities. There are no rules as to what can qualify as art. Making a creative decision, a decision to go in a creative direction and to practice a formal constraint, is definitely one of the ways to look for creativity. 

What decisions have been made? What choices can we make now? What is the basis of a creative choice? What makes up an art direction?

Creativity is the conception of form.

Discipline is sticking with a program of work designed to create growth. To be disciplined is to possess self-control, to know one’s limits, to act within a safe and measured sphere of possibility. It is also to act consistently. When disciplined practice creates strength, there is more control in the execution of decisions. The strength gained from practice brings the line drawn by the hand closer to the mind’s idea.

Creativity derives from passion. Deeply caring about anything leads to opinion and the repetition of opinion creates style. A passion for form leads to the discipline of style. 

The subject of a work also has a lot to do with the interaction between creativity and discipline. The loss of a love can lead to a loss of passion, and instead of being productive creativity becomes cathartic. Instead of being driven by a desire to make great work, the artist who is heart-broken uses creative expression to cope with the feelings. 

Imagine Jeff Koons versus Mark Rothko. Koons is an artist who conceives of ideas and blueprints for the making of a spectacular visual object. His work is not expressive but conceptual. He is not using art to express something personal as much as he is performing for art. He is making aesthetic and conceptual, formal, choices to create something for the world.

Expressionist artists, like Rothko or Pollock, use creativity to vent their anguish, to express their tragic sense of time. Both routes end up creating something new, something valuable. The expressionists, however, ended up killing themselves and Jeff Koons is one of the wealthiest artists of all time. 

The value in art is derived from the desire of collectors and institutions to preserve the work of artists for future generations. Once an artist reaches art historical status, their work is almost immediately valuable.

People get too serious about art when money is involved, and it is always involved. It takes discipline to keep a sense of humor. You have to stick to your decisions. 

The tragic artist seems more authentic to us in some ways. There is very little sense of discipline in the tragic artist because they are fueled by trauma, not will power. The tragic artist is living on borrowed time. Creativity is a drug for the tragic artist, and it is just a matter of time before it becomes impossible to re-up.

The pop artist doesn’t use their public work to express their private feelings, but instead takes the task of making an art object as a kind of engineering challenge. 

Discipline and creativity are never neutral forces and so it requires an understanding of an individual and their context to really get down to the nitty gritty. What is the purpose of discipline and creativity in your work? Do you tend to feel more creative when you are emotional or does emotion come out of doing the work?

The purpose of the discipline is to earn trust. Through the repeated performance of a task, we inherit an artist’s belief in their project. 

Why do we need creativity? Where do we need it? 

You would think that making pretty things to look at wouldn’t be super high on our list of priorities in a world that has so many serious problems. 

Creativity always starts with a question about form. How would it look if we did this…? What would a viewer feel if we did that…? How do we make this art object feel a certain way? How can we inspire certain feelings in an audience? The questions create the context for formal experimentation and an artist will use their discipline, their media, to create some answers.