Monday, March 17, 2014

A Classic: Steve Jobs 1997 MacWorld Keynote

I'm always impressed by Steve Jobs. I know I've discovered him far too late - so late, in fact, that it almost sounds like the punchline to a bad joke. However, here we are. It's always good to return to the classics, no?

His 1997 Keynote Speech for Apple is often referenced as revolutionary. It started Apple back on the fast track to being the tech leviathan they are today. I'm going to post the YouTube video of it below, and I hope you watch the whole thing; it's worth it. But here are the key takeaways, in case you're short on time:

Start at the top. Figure out what's most important to the company and let that inform your strategy from top to bottom. If the Board of Directors can't get behind it, it shouldn't be on the agenda.

Find where you're relevant; focus on that. Apple's biggest market share was creative professionals, and a high percentage of them used Adobe Photoshop. Jobs steered Apple to co-market with Adobe Photoshop. And they targeted their Think Different campaign, I believe, with this knowledge in mind. It also tied in to their other key group: education. Marketing to educators and educational groups was another strong initiative that paid off for Apple.

Determine your core product and focus on developing it. Jobs states that Mac OS is the "best operating system in the world." I'm sure there was contention then about that, and still is today, but believing in your core product and focusing on how to make it and market it better is vital.

Make lucrative partnerships. This is where they introduced a partnership with Microsoft that raised a lot of eyebrows. But, that partnership and others allowed Apple to recover. And any business is enhanced with rich, collaborative partnerships.

Develop a product paradigm. This is the beginning of the Think Different campaign, and the part I love the most. While really focusing on your core products and determining how your brand is relevant to the market is all very important, a new way to think about one's brand is always very exciting. And if you can communicate that to the customer, the way Apple did, you're gold. Then customers start conceptualizing the brand and developing affinity with it, and you get loyalty. And when you have loyalty, you have repeat visits and continued purchases as long as you stay relevant.

Maybe it's that we all want to see ourselves as people who think differently. I know that being told I'm special and different and creative and an iconoclast certainly appeals to the vain part of my brain that wants to believe it. But Jobs was really good at getting you to believe in the cult of Apple and the cult of Jobs. And I think that's why they have so much market share today. Because of this MacWorld keynote in 1997.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Diets are a Fallacy

Every program with any kind of weight-loss, "toning", "fitness", "weight reduction", "lean out" is a diet.  Anything that restricts what you eat or how you eat it is a diet, period.  Even if that "lifestyle change" goes on your whole life, it is still a diet, because it's not the way you naturally choose to eat. You've had your lifetime up until this point to determine your eating habits, healthy or no, so any drastic change?  It's a diet.

Glad we got that clear.  Because I'm sick of people saying that certain programs aren't diets.  If it restricts what you eat, it's a diet.  It can also be whittled down to this: eating less?  You're on a diet.  Eating more?  You're on a nutritional plan.  I don't mean to be flippant, but identifying nutritional deficits and correcting them is proper nutrition.  There's a big difference between saying "I need more potassium because I keep getting leg cramps, so I'm going to eat more potassium-rich foods" vs. "I need to lean out so I'm going to eat less of X."  That's taking away stuff vs. adding better stuff.

Also: why?  Why do you need to "lean out"?  I touched on this a couple of weeks ago.  If you are at a decently healthy weight, and yes, being "overweight" can be healthy according to multiple studies, you're good.  Most people have a set point - a weight and body shape genetically determined that their body is comfortable at.  I'll share that mine is somewhere between 162-178 lbs.  I've been in that range my entire adult life.  It hasn't changed from that range after multiple diets (South Beach, Paleo, Whole30), a few binge periods, 2.5 years of Roller Derby, and nearly 2 years of CrossFit.  I think I've dipped as low as 160, but for whatever reason, I can't seem to get into the 150s.  And I rarely go above 180, and the times I did, I was in extreme emotional distress.  So if all this is the case, why diet? 

Studies show that if you're already a certain weight, it's going to be nigh impossible to get lower.  People can lose a small percentage of weight (around 10-15 lbs) or 2-6% and keep it off, but it's pretty tough.  Plus, when you've done so, your body fundamentally changes.  If you've been at a higher weight and you reduce your intake enough to be thin and stay thin, you are going to be hungry a lot more than a person who never put on the weight in the first place.

"That's what life is like for a formerly fat person all the time. Their starvation switch is permanently on. And they're not going 72 hours, they're trying to go the rest of their lives. Don't take my word for it. Here's a breakdown of the science, in plain English. It's like being an addict where the withdrawal symptoms last for decades.
As that article explains, the person who is at 175 pounds after a huge weight loss now has a completely different physical makeup from the person who is naturally 175 -- exercise benefits them less, calories are more readily stored as fat, the impulse to eat occurs far, far more often. The formerly fat person can exercise ten times the willpower of the never-fat guy, and still wind up fat again. The impulses are simply more frequent, and stronger, and the physical consequences of giving in are more severe. The people who successfully do it are the ones who become psychologically obsessive about it, like that weird guy who built an Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks.  (Source)

A very small number of people actually succeed.  You can succeed at keeping small amounts of weight off, but drastic amounts?  Not so much.  It's very rare that a really big person becomes a small person and stays that way without invasive surgery.  In fact, the odds are so small, that studies have a really difficult time finding those people.  It's rare.

 How rare? Well, this person did the math, and as far as they could tell, two out of 1,000 Weight Watchers customers actually maintain large weight losses permanently. Two out of a thousand. That means if you are fat, you are 25 times more likely to survive getting shot in the head than to stop being fat.  (Source)

So dude, hear me: diets suck.  While we all want to fit into our pants, we need to ask ourselves about the goals we craft outside our set points.  Is it really worth it to you to work this hard at something?  You have to know now that it isn't going to be easy; it's going to take a lot of work and be difficult for the rest of your life.  Given that, wouldn't you rather try to funnel that energy into loving yourself, accepting yourself just as you are, and find a way to increase and maintain your current health? 

I would.  I do.  So that's my "goal" for the Precision Nutrition plan I'm currently on: to finish at the weight I started, having learned all this valuable stuff about diet and data and set points and the rest.

If I've spent a bunch of money to find out that really, I was fine all along?  Great.  And if what I've gotten out of it is increased mindfulness about my behavior and thought patterns, more self-acceptance, sustainable food and exercise patterns, and better sleep.  I've won.  And I've won on my terms.

New Direction

I've been thinking a long time about this blog and what it should be.  I started out with a focus on branding and packaging, thinking that that was how my career was going to go.  But along the way, something changed.  Pinterest happened.  And honestly, it's a far more effective tool than a longer-format tool.

I still like looking at packaging, and you can see my Pinterest Packaging Board for ideas.  But I don't really want to talk about that stuff anymore.  You all know what makes for good branding and packaging.  The good stuff grabs you.  It inspires a second look, and maybe even a purchase.  We all love good design, because it puts the vital and necessary to the forefront.  

But I'm kind of done with that as a focus.  So what next?

After doing some creative life and soul searching with the Coaching for Creatives course from Braid Creative, I discovered that I'm more interested in pursuing a path in creative digital marketing.  As we become more and more mobile-focused, and technology provides more opportunities to communicate, the world seems more connected, but also more frenzied and overwhelming.  Finding ways to cut through all the conversation, interrupt complacent schemas, and get our messages through will be paramount.

I waffle a lot about talking about the personal.  Blogs seem to have a lot more relevance when they have an obvious voice, and a lot of my content so far has been pretty dry, unless you're a design nerd like me.  But at the same time, finding the line between exposure and discretion can be pretty tough.  I may give that a try if anyone is interested in hearing my thoughts.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Art of Failure

This TED Talk by Alain de Botton was engaging, solidly interesting, and quite funny at times.  It's about meritocracy, professional envy, and the art of failure. Is a meritocracy the best way to measure success and allocate reward? Botton posits that no, it's really not.

Meritocracy makes people feel their failure a lot more, because they believe they are entirely responsible for it. This in turn makes them feel more shame around failure. Botton talks about the art of failure and gives some great examples, including Hamlet, of those who have lost, but not failed.

Plus, I think we can all say that there isn't really a true meritocracy anyway, as there will always be both visible and invisible privilege.  So how do we measure success?  What does success mean to you?  How will you know you've achieved it?

In the end, we all need to define success in our own terms.  It's hard enough succeeding, Botton says, let alone being unhappy with the result if it's something you never really wanted anyway.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Power of Image

I've been thinking a lot about self-image lately, mostly as pertains to my own.  Every woman I know struggles with self-image, because there's a huge market, wider than we know, that capitalizes on female insecurity.  That machine sells us on our flawed selves so that we'll not only impulse buy the products that are meant to fix it, but even more insidious, so that we'll subscribe to a lifetime of struggle against our perceived flaws.

Cameron Russell's talk about the power of image in her career as a model was eye-opening.  Because of the way she looks, she's given an abundance of privilege.  Because of this legacy of white, thin, feminine models and the genetic lottery she won, she's inherited social and financial benefits that many of us don't get.  And worse, many people pay the price for their looks, be it race, age, disability and more - all of which has nothing to do with who they are.

I sometimes think that if I were just thinner, tanner, and more toned, I'd be happier.  But that's a fallacy.  Models, as Cameron points out, are the most insecure group of women out there, because their currency is their body.  They have to think about what they look like all the time.  We choose to think about that, but they have to.  And if they gain weight or lose their hair or their looks, it's over.  We all get old.

I feel like I spend way too much time investing in that fallacy.  Honestly, I'm pretty happy on a day-to-day basis.  Stressed and busy, sure.  But honestly, can I live with the way I look?  Hell yes.

And wouldn't it be great if weight loss, tanning, and being more feminine - all of which feed into this machine - weren't my goals?  What if my goal was to get stronger?  To lift more weight?  Run further without stopping?  Change my body to more muscle so it could do more things?  Find health and balance?

Those are things I can change.  What I look like isn't.  So it's time to realize that image is a construct, that life is a choice, and that I can choose to let go of goals that no longer serve me.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sleeping My Way to the Top

Sleeping My Way to the Top

Oh, you thought that was euphemistic?  Sadly, no.  I mean real sleep, and getting more of it.

Developing a sleep ritual is my latest habit from Precision Nutrition, for one thing.  We’ve been tasked to create and perform a sleep ritual every night to get us ready for bed and set up for good sleep.  You probably know how vital sleep is, but there’s always more to learn.  Sleep is, pretty much, everything.  It contributes to mood, body composition and healing, recall and memory, and overall health in ways that are still being quantified. 

Arianna Huffington, in her TED Talk, says that the way to lead a more productive, inspired and joyful life is to get more sleep.  We can unlock big ideas, be recharged for work, and be happier, healthier, and far more fulfilled.

She says that sleep deprivation has played into a culture of one-upmanship, where everyone is trying to get by on less.  And what that’s led to is a lot of terrible decision making, she posits.  We can’t see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic.  So, women need to lead the charge by sleeping more hours, having good ideas, and keeping their eyes peeled for those icebergs.

It’s difficult though.  Beyond the culture of getting everything done by sacrificing sleep, there’s also the element of “always on”.  My smartphone is my only phone.  We don’t have one at home.  So I always have my smartphone on.  It can make noise, it can light up, and it can interrupt my sleep.  It also provides the temptation to check my email at all hours.

Jessa Gamble talks about how this “always on” culture has affected our sleeping patterns.  Folks without artificial light experience biphasic sleep—two periods of sleep, typically 8 pm – midnight, then 2 am – 6 pm. 

From TED:
Now that humanity has spread right to the Earth's poles and adopted a 24-hour business day, Gamble argues that our internal clocks struggle against our urban schedules. Her work documents the rituals surrounding daily rhythms, which along with local languages and beliefs are losing their rich global diversity and succumbing to a kind of circadian imperialism.

So how can we sleep more, and fight against this always-on, always-sleep-deprived culture?  By developing rituals and practices that return us to a more natural state, at least as much as we can.

I already do some of the best practices for sleep—I wear earplugs and an eye mask, I always wash my face and brush my teeth before bed, and try to find ways to simmer down.  However, we also usually watch TV before bed, which isn’t swell, and we charge our phones next to our beds, which also isn’t the best.  I’ll be looking into changing those two things over the next two weeks.

However, what I’m most interested in is what I can add.  Taking things away is obnoxious and leads to ego depletion.  Adding stuff provides delight and curiosity.  One thing I’m thinking about is moving my bedtime up, and doing less stuff at night.  I’ll often be up working on a project, watching “just one more episode” of Downton Abbey or whatever, and not give myself enough time to wind down. 

I might need more than 20 minutes to wind down.  I might need a full hour.  And what I’ve decided to fill it with are these two things: reading for pleasure, and any pleasant physical activity that helps to relax my body, e.g. gentle stretching, foam rolling, or a warm bath.

I’m hoping this will help get my circadian rhythms in line, increase and deepen my sleep, and make me a better scout for ideas big and small.

Friday, November 8, 2013

DC Comics Screws Up Again

I haven't been a big fan of DC Comics overall.  And I really don't love their logo.  But I was prepared to overlook all that because the latest Batwoman titles have been so very good.  Helmed by J.H. Williams III and WH Blackman, it's a kickass comic with strong female protagonists - not only the titular character, but there's a strong and compassionate cop, a hardworking if acerbic federal agent, and a well-meaning, talented sidekick.  The plot lines are solid, it's always well-written dialogue, and the art.  The art.

All the panels are absolutely gorgeous.  Williams' skill is unparalleled in pictorial storytelling.  Every detail is perfect.  I just love looking at it.  And he uses layout and color and shadowing to give the story so much resonance.

So when I heard two months ago that Williams and Blackman are leaving DC because the comic prevented them from showing main character Kate Kane marrying fiance Maggie Sawyer, I was enraged.  There are so few comics with strong lady characters that aren't deranged.  And so very few with complex, fleshed-out female characters, especially queer ones.  And even rarer, all that in such an exquisite comic.

I would have given DC money for the rest of my life if they'd kept up this comic, but yet again, they're proving themselves to be enormous idiots.  

I'll be reading back issues of Promethea and anything Terry Moore puts out.  Adios, DC.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Death Stories

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and I honestly was at a complete loss.  Paralyzed for days, I cast around for an appropriate response or way to relate to what she was going through.  Mobilizing care was pretty straightforward, but what might come after... well.  I had no way of understanding that or even having any kind of response other than a numbing confusion.

You see, my family doesn't do death.

I come from a crew of Christian Scientists, which means that death isn't a part of the conversation.  Everyone gets uncomfortable when it comes up, shifting in their seats and looking away.  We talk about people passing on, but no one ever dies.  They're "in a better place" or they've "gone over", which sounds like they're just around the bend somewhere, hanging out in the mist, still touchable and present if we can just catch up with them. 

This lack of narrative about the finality of death came to the forefront when my mother-in-law was diagnosed.  Every time the possibility that she might die came up, I would brush it off, or get wildly irritable and defensive, lashing out at my poor husband, who was dealing with his own confusing mix of worry and grief at the thought of losing his mom.  My therapist finally asked the gentle question of what rituals my family had about death, and when I burst into tears, she teased out the truth that death makes me really damn uncomfortable.

I don't have any framework to understand it.  It seems so vast and encompassing.  I don't know how to cope with someone being gone forever.  And further, I don't know if I can handle the slow decline into the final days.  Cancer is a huge jerk, and I hate it.  Alzheimer's took both of my grandmothers, heart disease took one of my grandpas.  Watching those final days was rough.

But, we all die.  There is an end.  I have to find a way to cope with the death of my loved ones, and my own, eventual, end.

In other cultures, there are rituals to help us die.  There are narratives about the life cycle and the graceful retreat into death.  We need those stories.  We need those rituals.  I need them.

So, I'm doing a research project about death.  I watched this TED talk today by Amanda Bennett, about her husband Terrance's vibrant life and death from cancer.  Together, they fought cancer 3 times successfully.  The last time, it was time to let go.  Until the end, they thought they could keep fighting.  In fact, they didn't say goodbye, because they were so wrapped in their hope.

Hope isn't denial, Amanda says. In fact, hope is what we cling to because death, in our culture, means failure. When people die, it's because they have failed to keep living. But this makes our stories sad.

Instead, she posits, we need a heroic narrative about death. We need to be hopeful, and not thought to be in denial.  We can keep the stories that we are fighters, that our doctors are healers, and then when it is time to go, we can leave knowing that we put in a good fight. 

We need a way to leave as grandly as we came in and lived our lives. This will make the exit joyful and we can be proud of it. Hope isn't a bug; it's a feature.

There will be more of this as I sort through my complicated feelings about death.  But you should watch this, because it's heartwarming.

The Pitch of Genius

I wonder if there's a spectrum of genius.  We typically note genius when we observe that someone's talents and capabilities lie far above the norm, or at least, the rest of us.  But I wonder if there's a more graduated scale.  And how might we define it?  And once we've defined it, how can we nurture it?

This TED performance by Derek Paravicini is truly amazing.  Born more than 3 months early, Derek is blind and severely autistic, has perfect pitch and can play full melodies on the piano from memory.  Adam Ockelford has been Derek's piano teacher from childhood, and explains that Derek understands music systematically: since he is unable to see the keys or read music, he memorizes how the melody should go, and then replays it.

The audience picked a song, and he played it from memory.  He can also improvise songs for a completely different take on it.

It's so interesting how the brain works. It's like the brain is a constant improvisation shaped by DNA, circumstance, and our teachers and loved ones who encourage us to grown, learn, and inspire others down the road.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Candy Packaging

Just in time for Halloween, The Dieline has a post of modern candy packaging.  Lots of great and poppy designs.  These two are my favorites:

Awake Chocolate

Love the owl on this one.  I'm an owl aficionado.  Apparently, this chocolate is also caffeinated, which is pretty amazing.  You couldn't make it better.

Caramela Chocolate Boutique

Love the simple design with the pops of hot pink and polka dot.  Classic and modern at the same time.

I think I have a sweet tooth now.