You Are Me

I think there might be something that may not be so evident to people who read my journal. When I say “you” within my posts, I’m primarily referring to myself. In effect, as a journal, I’m talking to myself. I’m basically trying to reinforce what I know through repetition (writing it out to myself), so that I’ll remember it later when I reflect upon my journal.

The problem with this tone of writing though is that when I talk to others about their struggles, it comes off as very preachy or commanding. “You need to do this” or “You need to do that.” This is a huge flaw in my communications that I’m fully aware of, yet I’m still trying to figure out how best to circumvent or correct. For example, within the writings of others, I notice they utilize words like “one” or “oneself”. “One needs to remember to play daily.” This removes the direction of the message and doesn’t put any command on the individual listening to it.

Other than that, my final option would be to completely change my writing so it is clearly evident that I’m writing to myself. So instead of saying to myself “You need to do this”, I instead would say “I need to do this.” This actually isn’t as bad as it seems because I know that in helping myself, I’m helping others. Thus by utilizing “I”, I’m making it evidently clear to even myself, that I am the one who needs to work on living what I already know. In effect, just knowing isn’t enough. To fully complete the circle (i.e. live to play, play to learn, learn to work, work to live), I need to be able to fully work on living what I have learnt through play. Only then will I be able to truly lead by my actions, rather than by my words.

Learning Perspective & Awareness

There are two valuable attributes that I’ve found to be extremely helpful in my search for my passion and purpose. These two attributes are perspective and awareness.

Perspective, I believe, is the easier of the two to learn. It can be learnt by playing within your life on a daily basis. Put another way, strive to do something different daily. In doing so, you’re putting yourself within different situations which can give you new and unique perspectives to your life.

Some examples of daily play to get new perspectives would be as follows. Reading material outside of your normal field of interest. Walking different paths or visiting different places within your local neighborhood to see or encounter things that you might not normally. Whatever your creative method (i.e. writing, drawing, composing, etc), try to create something different daily, no matter how rough or crude it might seem.

Awareness, on the other hand, I’ve found to be much more difficult to learn, primarily because it almost implies a degree of wisdom to recognize what you are seeing. For example, just because you can see something, it doesn’t imply you understand what you’re seeing. And if you can’t understand what you’re seeing then it may as well be invisible to you because the understanding brings the awareness.

The thing to realize though is that there are different forms of understanding. Logical understanding means you are fully cognizant of what you are seeing to the point that you can easily express it verbally to others. Intuitive understanding is much more difficult however. You may feel you know something is important, yet you can’t logically explain why at that point in time. Nevertheless, one must realize that this intuitive awareness is just as important, even if you can’t explain the importance of what you’re seeing.

Awareness I’ve found isn’t so much learnt, as it is fostered or cultivated. To be aware, you must give yourself the time and space to allow it to manifest itself through reflection. If, however, you don’t give yourself time to reflect, to recognize what you’re looking at, even at an intuitive level, then there is less chance for awareness to occur.

Therefore to foster awareness, I’ve found it beneficial to have large periods of reflection. For example, if you have a journal, it’s important to not only give yourself time to write within it but also time to reflect upon it. Look back within it and see if you can see a pattern, connectivity, relationship, or interaction between the different individual events within your life, no matter how superficial they might seem at first. Above all else though, give yourself the time and space away from both input and output to digest what you are absorbing.

In effect, every so often ensure that you unplug from the external signals and noise around you, so that you can fully concentrate on the signals emanating from within you.

Discovering & Proclaiming Your Own Trumania

There’s an awesome scene from The Truman Show that’s a great metaphor for the moment of realization of your life’s passion and purpose. It’s the point in the movie when Truman fully understands who he is within the context of the “world” around him and what he needs to do to be truly happy (unbeknownst to his viewers). Even more poignant is his playful gesture of proclaiming “Trumania”, as though he had just discovered a new world of his own.

What I find interesting about this is how searching for your passion and purpose in life is exactly like searching for a new world. It’s not a single act (i.e. landing on a beach of a new continent) but instead a series of actions that fully map out and define the perimeter or parameters of it (i.e. numerous landings on the coast, numerous ventures up coastal rivers to map the interior of it) until you achieve a moment of realization at seeing the world in full. Yet this world you’re mapping and surveying doesn’t exist on any geographical map but instead exists within yourself, defining your existing world view of who you are within the context of the world around you and what you believe you can do within it.

I can’t tell you how many times I felt like my life was like being adrift on a river and not knowing where I was or where I was going. Even more so, when I looked back at where I had been, at places I had stopped alongside the river, they just seemed like random destinations with no sense of location, purpose, or meaning. I kept wanting to be able to fly high above where I was, so I could see things from a different perspective and get my bearings but I was never able to do this. Now I realize I didn’t need to do so. My journey itself was helping me to discover where I was and where I was going. I just needed the awareness and perspective to understand what I was looking at collectively.

You see the awareness and understanding doesn’t come from just looking at the individual waypoints of your life. It comes from looking at them as a whole and seeing how they relate and interact with one another collectively, no matter how remote and distant they may seem to be. Only then will all of the pieces connect and you’ll finally see the new world you’ve passionately known was there all along.

Cultivating Your Own Vision

There’s an excellent rant post by a former Apple interface designer on Microsoft’s Vision of the Future that entails what a successful vision should be as described below. What I find interesting about it is how it has already been proven true within my own life.

This matters, because visions matter.
Visions give people a direction and inspire people to act,
and a group of inspired people is
the most powerful force in the world.

If you’re a young person setting off to realize a vision,
or an old person setting off to fund one,
I really want it to be something worthwhile.
Something that genuinely improves how we interact.
Bret Victor

You see earlier in my life, I was like everyone else in that I believed that when you set goals, they should be realistic ones. While I still believe this to be true, what I now find more important though is to define a greater vision for your life that makes it worthwhile to live and work through those myriad of goals, thus unifying them in a meaningful way for yourself. Even more importantly, it gives you the persistence and faith to continue working towards your vision even when you aren’t fully sure of how to achieve it yet. Most important of all, I find that when you have a greater vision for your life, suddenly the little things that might have annoyed you before don’t bother you as much. Or while they may still bother you, you find you can get over them easier because your perspective is taken from a long view versus a short one.

For those who’ve played MMO games, you know the same principle applies. When you get excited about a new expansion, it isn’t so much about the individual questing goals that get you excited, as the endgame vision of what you are trying to achieve as a hero. Thus you may encounter boring quests or even extremely challenging ones, yet you persevere and overcome them because of the greater vision of what you hope to achieve (i.e. slay the massive dragon in the final endgame raid dungeon). Really the only thing stopping you or helping you to achieve your vision is your belief in yourself. Once you start cultivating your vision and your belief in yourself, everything changes, as you finally become what you know you truly should be (as eloquently put by Viktor Frankl paraphrasing Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the video below).

If we treat people as they are,
we make them worse.
If we treat people as they ought to be,
we help them become
what they are capable of becoming.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Experience Is The Reward

I abhor the concept of gamification. This might sound weird considering I believe we can learn so much from games and I believe that life itself is the greatest game of all. Where the difference comes into play for me is why we play the game in the first place. If you’re playing for the rewards, be they material or social recognition, then you’ve lost the real focus of the game. The experience is the reward, to play and experience the game to its fullest.

If anything, the overuse of gamification within online games today is one of the primary reasons why they do fail. In effect, often the experience of the game is so shallow and meaningless due to poor game design, that game designers often have to add in superficial “rewards” along they way to give players something worth playing for (i.e. a golden carrot), otherwise the game would be completely boring. And if anything, people eventually do see this shallow and meaningless gameplay after playing the game for a while and experiencing the “golden carrot” pattern repetitively, to the point that they see them for what they truly are.

Therefore, it is not the games themselves that we need to learn from and design into our lives but instead we need to learn from the experience of play, as this is the natural process of life itself. A young fox cub chasing a butterfly is learning valuable life skills, as these will be essential in his ability to hunt when he grows up. Play within businesses itself is a crucial element that is so often overlooked and ignored to the point of being forbidden. Yet the ability to experiment and make mistakes in research, be it for a medical company or for a web firm, is how we learn to innovate. Without that ability to play, without giving ourselves permission to be imperfect, we would not be able to survive and evolve as a species.

If anything, what I’ve learnt the most from online games has to deal with social interaction and, more specifically, how to overcome the social limitations and mechanics of the game to work more effectively as a team. Thus if anything, it was how we worked as a social group to come up with creative solutions not designed within the game, so as to be able to play it more effectively. In effect, we played around and tested different social interactive methods and structures until we found ones that worked for us and improved the effectiveness of our group as a whole. This is exactly the same reason why so many of the best raid leaders within WoW weren’t people with MBA’s but instead people like head nurses who worked within ER departments. In effect, just as these people brought their amazing social capabilities and knowledge into the game, so too should we take what we’ve learnt socially from within these games into our lives as well, so as to improve them. A quote from John Thackara’s book In The Bubble below is a perfect example of this.

Online games are an object lesson for academia, Herz says, not because universities need to be making games, but because online games illustrate the learning potential of a network and the social ecology that unlocks that potential.

Among young people who appear demotivated in formal learning situations, learning and teaching occur in a collaborative, highly social way in a game context. Herz continues: “If a gamer doesn’t understand something, there is a continuously updated, distributed knowledge base maintained by a sprawling community of players from whom he can learn. Newbies are schooled by more skilled and experienced players. Far from being every man for himself, multiplayer online games actively foster the formation of teams, clans, guilds, and other self-organizing groups.”

Anytime I have seen something decent come from gamification, it wasn’t about making something game-like but instead about giving people a new perspective on their lives which in turn improves the experience of it. This to me isn’t gamification but great design, particularly from a visual design perspective. For example, I myself am conceptualizing the ability to easily visualize data within a CMS concept I’m currently working on. The benefits of this are obviously dramatic because it would allow people the ability to experience their lives from different visual perspectives, thus empowering them and inspiring them within their journey. Again, this isn’t gamification but instead information design and data visualization as done by the likes of Edward Tufte.

From Patterns Comes Structure

I‘ve been noticing a pattern over the years when dealing with web design. People come to me looking for a website and assume that I’m going to magically make something that makes sense of their business or their life when they themselves have no clue of it. How can you possibly expect someone to build something that is supposed to communicate your identity clearly, if you yourself have no idea of it?

Don’t get me wrong. Figuring out your identity is extremely complex. It takes a lot of care and awareness to recognize the patterns in your life which define and build a structure of your identity. I think this is why at times people are often so frustrated with existing technology because it often doesn’t work naturally in the same way that we evolve. Most technology assumes you know the structure of your life already and thus can create sections for it when you build your site or space. Yet this often isn’t the case.

It takes a lot of care and awareness to recognize the patterns in your life which define and build a structure of your identity.

Instead as we live, patterns build up until one day we realize something is important in our lives and it defines who we are. Again we need this same capability with technology that will allow us to notice small things over time until the accumulation of those thoughts form a solid aspect of ourselves. Comparing it to blogging software, it would be the ability to make random posts over time and then suddenly realize that those random posts have meaning, thus you categorize them. Then over more time, you realize that this meaningful posts are meaningful to your entire life and thus that category spins off and becomes an entire website in itself. Again right now there seems to be no way to do this fluidly while also maintaining the path to the original random thoughts. Instead you have decide at what point to break and spin off the content and form your own site from it.

All said and done this reminds me of how solar systems and planets within them are formed. At first it is all just one big chaotic soup from which slow moving patterns (orbits) form. Then over time those patterns start merging and solidifying into solid planets which eventually become self-sustaining entities on their own, possibly even habitable ones with ecosystems of their own.

Weaving One Thing At A Time Into The Greater Fabric

Since it’s the start of the new year, I’m hearing a lot of people talking about inspiration and what you can do to be successful. One thing I keep hearing time and again is “Focus on one thing and do it well.” I completely disagree, at least from the perceived perspective of it.

The way most people word this, other people will assume that they should just choose one thing in their life and only focus on that throughout their life. This is simply absurd. You’re going to have a very monotonous and boring life if you do this because diversity is the spice of life.

Don’t get me wrong though, I agree with what is being said on a fundamental level but it needs to be taken into context within the bigger picture. Yes by all means, when working in the moment, work on one thing and do it well. However, when working within your long view, ensure that each thing you do can be supported by, connected to, and built upon by the other things that you do. This is how design works and how complex self-surviving ecosystems are created. It is small little actions or endeavours, that when connected to each other, create something of wondrous beauty.

As an example of this, I always have a myriad of thoughts on my plate that would seem to lead my life into radically different directions. However, the more I understand myself, the more I’m seeing that these things below the surface are actually connected quite closely to each other. Therefore, I’m figuring out ways to ensure connectivity between these things from a strategic view before I dive too deep into a singular project from a tactical view. So possibly, just possibly, my ongoing research on creating my own content management system directly relates to my interest in relaying information (i.e. visual maps) in radical new ways. And that in turn relates to creating radical visual systems that would allow people to articulate who they are and where they are going within their lives which would in turn allow them to represent themselves professionally in ways that make CVs or resumes look like an archaic joke. So again, one thing builds upon and is utilized by the next which empowers and weaves the entire ecosystem or tapestry of the vision.

Give Yourself Permission To Play

Theory is splendid
but until put into practice,
it is valueless.
James Cash Penney, J.C. Penney

While theory is useless if not utilized, it is an essential step in the creation process. If we don’t give ourselves permission to theorize, imagine, or play then we severely limit our ability to evolve and innovate. This is the problem that so many of us face now. We are expected to be perfect on our first attempt which makes it all but impossible to create anything worthwhile because design is an iternative process which creates beauty from layers of work.

By seeing the design process, the trial and error, the failed attempts, there is so much that can be learned.

To overcompensate for this, we end up doing all of our play behind closed doors, so as to prevent other people from seeing our imperfections (i.e. trial, error, mistakes, learning, evolving). I’m not so sure if this is a good thing. By seeing the design process, the trial and error, the failed attempts, there is so much that can be learned. In addition, that what might be a failed attempt for you, could be an inspirational doorway to something miraculous for someone else.

The Playful Vision

My thoughts have been on overdrive lately because I’ve been off sick the previous week and doing nothing but lying around and thinking. Not a particularly nice start to the year from a physical standpoint but from a mental one, my mind has produced an explosion of ideas and patterns that feel right somehow.

However, I can’t fully comprehend the connectivity of them as yet, since at times they seem radical and at other times they seem ridiculous. That said, I need to get them out of me, no matter how chaotic they might seem. And even if they turn out to be insubstantial as a whole, there is a seed of something within them that seems important in some way.

Know Thyself

I keep seeing myself standing on this exquisitely designed masted ship sailing upon an unknown ocean and yet off in the distance of the early evening sky, a star shines brightly to lead my way. What this metaphor means to me is the power of fully understanding and knowing yourself. That’s because I believe that reality is perception. And the more multiple perspectives one can give to something, the more real and stable it will seem to them.

And the more multiple perspectives one can give to something, the more real and stable it will seem to them.

The problem for many people right now though is that they have no idea who they really are (symbolized by the ship) or where they are going (symbolized by the star). Thus at times they feel fearful, frustrated, and powerlessly adrift on an ocean with no sure footing beneath their feet nor any sense of where they are going.

No matter where you go, there you are.
Confucius

However, when one cares enough to start spending the time to fully know oneself, suddenly everything changes. You could be in the most chaotic of surroundings, yet if you know yourself and your direction, you feel powerfully calm amidst the storm. The reason for this is that by understanding yourself, you’ve given yourself your own gyrocompass to stabilize yourself. Rather than getting your bearings by your external surroundings (i.e. your work environment) or by what others perceive you should be, you instead get your bearings internally via your own powerfully authentic compass.

Life Is A Game

Now here’s where my vision deviates to an almost ridiculous level, yet somehow it feels right because of the patterns and similarities I’m seeing. Basically I know that if I want to share this information and help people understand themselves, I need to do it in such a way that it can connect to people on a level that they can understand. At the same time, it needs to be done from a perspective that I feel I’ve mastered and understood in a variety of ways. The most obvious pattern that kept coming up time and time again for me was games.

My entire life has evolved around social role playing games, both online and off (i.e. D&D, WoW, etc). If anything, I could almost say that most of what I learnt from life, I learnt from the playful and creative experiences within games. In fact, I believe that we as a species have a natural cyclic process of living to play, playing to learn, learning to work, and working to live. So simply put, without play, our ability to learn, evolve, and innovate is severely curtailed which in turn curtails our ability to survive.

There have been others who have seen this power of play in our lives, such as Jane McGonigal and even more recently Wil Wright. But the problem from my perspective is that they aren’t pushing the envelope or vision far enough. It’s not about making life like a game or putting games in our real lives. It’s about perceiving life itself as the greatest game of all and giving yourself permission to play within this game of life.

As I already observed before, when you play a game, your entire perspective itself changes. You suddenly shift from a lack of belief in yourself to an almost overwhelming sense of self belief. While many would argue that this is because the conscious mind perceives the lack of limitations and consequences within the fantasical world, I disagree. Many MMO theme park games today have a huge variety of limitations to them so as to keep you on their “rails” and many of their challenges require almost NASA-like coordination and expertise to achieve them.

Know your purpose. Know your role. Change your world.

No, the primary difference to me is your state of awareness within the realm of play. One goes from being someone with no strong sense of self-identity and purpose in real life to someone with an almost razor sharp sense of self-identity and purpose within the game world. In effect, you get the opportunity to peak into the game world within an all seeing eye, knowing the epic struggle that is about to take place and fully knowing your role and class capabilities even before you begin the game. We just need to give people the same sense of self awareness within life itself. Because once you start looking at life as a game itself, you’ll immediately shift your perception and start gathering the information you need to understand it and play it properly, just like any other game.

Know your purpose. Know your role. Change your world. So what great need or purpose have you been called for that makes the game challenging and engaging? What abilities does your class have and do you understand them fully? Again this is the problem that we have in our current lives. We are so detached and distracted that we lack an awareness of not only the bigger picture but also of our own inner selves. Thus for us to be able to play within the game, we need to understand ourselves and our capabilities first. It’s no different than fully understanding your class within an MMO game.

Where your talents
and the needs of the world cross,
there lies your vocation.
Aristotle

Mapping The Playing Field

Maps are the final missing element that we need to understand fully to be able to play effectively. This is no different than mastering the maps of a dungeon in the World of Warcraft or the battlefields in Counter Strike. Yet these maps in life aren’t regular geophysical maps or even linear time maps (i.e. Facebook timeline). These are a newer form of map which give us a newer understanding of ourselves in context with others. It is not ourselves that matter. It is our connectivity and what we do as a collective. Don’t get me wrong, the individual is not worthless. Rather it is what the individual does in context of the whole that matters the most.

We need awareness of the ways
we are connected with others,
reflecting on the characteristics
we share with others.
Dalai Lama

The point when one no longer focuses on himself or herself but instead fully focuses on his or her passion is the tipping point or passing of the event horizon in them becoming truly their passion. Or perceived another way, by selfishly focusing on their passions, they become self-less, thus achieving their most natural self.

You must be the change
you wish to see in the world.
Gandhi

Rather it is what the individual does in context of the whole that matters the most.

Shifting Perspectives

Increasingly we are going to have to do business
with people with whom we do not share values
but with whom for the moment we share common interests.

We are now interdependent. We are now interlocked.
As nations, as individuals, in a way that has never been the case before.

The paradigm structure for our time is the network.

The most important thing about what you can do
is what you can do with others.

Keep Your Spirit Alive

I created this back during the summer for myself and I wasn’t so sure why at the time. It was simply an inspirational quote that I had come up with, attached to one of the Captain America movie wallpapers. Now I think I get it. To me it represents the external influences that are pressured on us daily and how we need to resist them to defend our sense of self-identity and spirit. And if anything, this is doubly true while we are at work.

Creativity energy can be birthed from a variety of emotions.

Update June 7/12: I’ve been thinking about this some more. More than anything I think we need to resist apathy. It is the silent killer today that is turning us symbolically into zombies without us ever realizing it because of its creeping normalcy. What can we do to fight apathy? Anything that makes us feel alive. This means letting our feelings flow through us and savouring them. It doesn’t matter if we’re happy, sad, or mad. The trick though is obviously to let them flow through you, your heart, without letting them influence and affect your mind in a negative way. This is why in times of sorrow or anger, I try to utilize that emotional energy in a positive way, rather than letting it eat away at me in a negative way. If you look at a lot of amazing creative artists in the world today or in its history, you’ll see that they emulate this same approach. Creativity energy can be birthed from a variety of emotions.

Inspirational Work

I’ve been thinking about how I naturally want to gravitate to positions where I’m helping to create a positive culture within an organization through training and inspiration. This in turn got me wondering if there are any companies out there who actually are inspirational or create inspirational products themselves. What’s important to realize though is what I define as “inspirational” because it’s often misinterpreted with the other word “innovative”. To me, something that is inspirational gives someone a new perspective on life thus allowing them to both solidify and stabilize it through empowerment. In effect, if it doesn’t make their life better by making them feel more whole and complete then it’s not inspirational to me. For example, there are a lot of great innovative products out there that do amazing things but for the most part they don’t empower you, making you more independent. If anything, they weaken and fracture your life, making you more reliant upon them. Put another way, an inspirational product should empower people with what they already have, like a great tool, rather than empower them via an external dependent source that if cut off leaves them neutered and useless.

…an inspirational product should empower people with what they already have…

Quickly doing a search on the Web for “inspirational companies”, I found a listing of Most Inspiring Companies as indicated by “an online survey of 1,752 consumers”. After looking at the list, I thought to myself “If these are the most inspiring companies in the world right then we as a society are in serious trouble.”  Other than TOM Shoes which I wholeheartedly believe is inspirational, most of these companies are some of the largest and greediest corporate companies in the world. If they do anything that’s good it’s only because it directly helps their profit or brand image. For example, I’ve worked at Starbucks and it was one of the most worst experiences in my life. So much so that it scarred me psychologically and almost irreparably damaged my values and internal cultural compass. That’s because there wasn’t one ounce of authenticity or caring in the experience. They basically treated their employees like they were machines and their training program was nothing but a “sink or swim” approach.

Doing another search for “inspirational products”, again I didn’t find much. At the top of the list was Apple’s products which without a doubt I find highly innovative and enjoyable to use but still I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are inspirational. Yes, without a doubt, devices like the iPad and iPhone are changing the way we live but are they truly empowering us in a way that we feel more whole and independent within our lives? Again from what I’m seeing, these devices are no different from other computers in their ability to distract us and if anything they distract and fracture us even more so because they are so mobile and are with us all the time now. No, if anything, these devices are just stepping stones to something much more powerful that will hopefully give us the ability to see relational and contextual data in a completely new way, thus causing a paradigm shift which alters our world view and in turn provides us with the inspiration to see things in a completely new light.

Until then though, even though I have a strong sense of self-identity, I’m still not fully sure of the path I’m supposed to be taking. In effect, I know my passion but my purpose is still somewhat hazy. I have some rough ideas up my sleeve for creating some inspirational things but it still feels like I’m missing something very important and very obvious. One thing that keeps tugging on me time and again though is the way we work right now in our society. It seems completely flawed and outdated to the point that it is fracturing the very humanity of individuals within it, yet we happily plod along as though everything is completely normal (i.e. profits are up!). I fear if something isn’t done soon, we’ll soon be encountering a tipping point where people with their last ounce of humanity will rise up and revolt against the “machine” of present day work practices. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I feel like I intuitively know a better way of working, yet I haven’t visualized it in such a way that it can easily be interpreted by others yet. In other words, until I can easily articulate my vision, I may as well be speaking a foreign language because people won’t be able to grasp it and thus utilize it. Hilariously enough, in thinking about this, you could say that in looking for inspirational work, I’m actually trying to make work more inspirational, so that people can feel like a whole connected human being at the end of their work day rather than a broken disconnected machine.

The Four Temperaments

I’ve been reviewing the four personality temperaments (or “classes” as I like to call them) to understand how they interact as a cohesive team or group and it’s quite intriguing. To understand them more easily, I imagined them as the four separate corps of an imaginary army.

Artisans are the tactical corps. These are the front line soldiers who are “concerned with the conduct of an engagement” (i.e. a battle within a war).

Rationalists are the strategic corps. These are the high command soldiers who are “concerned with how different engagements are linked” together (i.e. the overall war).

Guardians are the logistical corps. These are the support soldiers who ensure the front line troops have the resources and security they need.

Idealists are the diplomatic corps. These are the cultural soldiers who are responsible for the training, counseling and morale of the entire army. In effect, they are the spirit corps or heart of the army.

As a Healer under the Idealist “diplomatic” corps of this army, I find it interesting how it compares quite closely to my past experiences. For example, when I played Counter-Strike, I was one of the leaders of our clan but not in the regular sense. Instead of being the figurehead leader, I was the leader behind the scenes who served to maintain the integrity of the unit. So I focused on the growth and development of people, ensuring they got the right training in the game, and more importantly I ensured a positive collaborative environment that fostered a high sense of moral and appreciation for everyone, no matter their status with the clan. In other words, I was like the chief cultural officer of the clan (if you visualized it as a corporate business).

And this is even more interesting because this is exactly how I acted when I was a Senior Web Developer at a firm in the past as well. In effect, I was a hub for people, assisting them in a variety of ways, primarily in a personal growth and development process (i.e. mentoring, training, guiding, etc) but also with regards to operational efficiency (i.e making the whole better and more stable). Most important of all, I was a strong “advocate” for our staff, ensuring they got the appreciation and recognition they deserved. For example, whenever we’d go out for lunch, I’d try to cover the bill if I could and if it was someone’s birthday, I’d always try to run out and get them a birthday cake at lunch time as well. Again looking back, I felt like I was naturally responsible for the spirit, heart, or culture of the company as a whole, ensuring that everyone was feeling valued and everything was progressing in a positive direction.

Healer Idealist

Within the World of Warcraft, my character that I played was a Protection Paladin whose primary role was as a “tank”. Within life, the character that I naturally “play” is a Healer Idealist whose primary role is as an “advocate”. But what does this really mean? Well let me try to break it down into parts, almost as though you were reading a “Player’s Manual” for the “Game of Life”.

Idealist Class

Think of my Idealist temperament as a “class” which is always forward thinking on the possibilities of what could be, thus always wanting to help improve the things around them. To be able to fully understand what needs to be improved though, requires a huge amount of knowledge and understanding. To achieve such things, Idealists utilize their highly evolved intuitions to become aware and understand the complex interactions of the systems around them, no matter if it’s the human body, an organization of many people, or even the software that’s utilized within the organization.

Healer Spec

As a specific variant of an Idealist, a Healer specializes in the ability to “heal” the things around them. And no this doesn’t mean a Healer can somehow cast magical spells to heal people. What it does mean though is that Healers have the uncanny ability to fix or improve things to the point that it almost seems “magically” in nature to others. For example, my family (particularly my mother) says I have an uncanny ability to “heal” them with my hands utilizing massage techniques on their head, hands, and feet. Doing tech support in the past, I’ve had people amazed at my ability to figure out the most bizarre problems and return both software and hardware to its optimal working state. And even as a team lead, I’ve had people amazed at my ability to assist them with process or workflow problems that seem to effortlessly disappear after assisting them.

Advocate Role

Last but not least, my primary role is as an advocate which means I will voraciously defend the causes I strongly believe in. This is one aspect of the Idealist class that can seem quite strange to people, as an Idealist can quickly go from being very laid back and easy going to almost bearish in the skip of a heartbeat, if they feel their causes are being attacked in any way, shape, or form.

Your Class & Specialization Within Life

For those used to playing massively multiplayer online games, you know that when you create your character, you often have to choose a class and then a further specialization to determine your role and play style within the game. For example, within the World of Warcraft, I had a character who was a paladin class that specialized in protection. Thus his role as a Protection Paladin was as a “tank” at the front lines, often taking the brunt of the enemy attacks for his party. What a lot of people don’t realize though is that just like these games you can actually determine your “class” and “specialization” within life itself using a personality profile system such as the ones created by Isabel Briggs Myers and David Keirsey (and often easily determined via a personality profile service). For example, during World War II, Isabel and her mother created what is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment so as to help women find suitable jobs that matched their personalities.

What’s important to realize in understanding this though is that your “role” or personality type is not a job type by any means. For example, you don’t take a personality test with an outcome of being told “Your optimal role in life is a WEB DESIGNER!” Instead think of your role as actions that you naturally gravitate towards so as to truly express your authentic self within life, thus making you feel truly alive and meaningful. It’s important to realize this because when you first glance at your optimal job types that match your role, they may seem completely different and without any similarities on the surface. Once you fully understand your role in life though, you’ll see that the jobs recommended for you are actually very similar below the surface because the actions that are performed within them are very similar in nature with a common pattern or theme to them. For example, some of the recommended career paths for my personality type are as a writer, counselor, teacher, psychologist, psychiatrist, musician, or clergy. Again, on the surface these careers couldn’t seem farther apart, yet with understanding they are very very similar in nature,  particularly because of what they achieve as an outcome for the individual working within that career.

John Carter

Our world is dying.
Fate has brought you here John Carter.
You may be the only one who can save us.

When I saw you, I believed it was a sign
that something new can come into this world.

What happened to this place?
A new power threatens
to destroy our city.

You are ugly
but
you are beautiful.

Follow Your Star

I’ve been off the grid for a while. I needed time to reflect and think about what I’ve been doing with my life and what I’ve been doing with this website as well. In effect, am I still going in the direction I want to be going in? During this downtime, I’ve been anything but inactive. I actually got a full time retail job about 15 minutes walking distance from my house. It doesn’t pay much but it covers my basic bills and my other co-workers are some of the nicest and most caring people I’ve ever worked with in my life. The work itself is pretty intense, leaving you exhausted at the end of the day and wiped out at the end of the week (both physically and mentally). That said, I do love the social interaction with the customers we get, as I have a naturally affinity for helping people out.

Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with myself because I just haven’t had any considerable time to research my passion and purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always jotting down notes and thoughts but I really haven’t had that much time to reflect and think about them in detail, primarily because I’ve been so exhausted. That all changed yesterday when I decided to finally read a book that I’ve been wanting to read for quite some time. The book is entitled The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Reading the first few chapters at night, before I went to bed, got me quite interested and in the morning I proceeded to voraciously read the rest of the book. By the time I was done, something noticeable had changed within me.

You see The Alchemist is a fable about a boy who in search of a treasure in a distant land discovers a more important treasure within himself. What might sound strange though is that I was already familiar with the story before I even began reading it. Not because I had heard of the story from someone else but because the story is the same story of my own life. And even more so, the universal truths relayed within the story are many of which I firmly believe in. So if anything, the book for me was a validation and an iconic reminder of what I had been doing my entire life already, particularly the last ten years of it.

Later that evening, after my wife returned from work, I described the impact the book had on me and what it made me realize with my life. Strange but true, I’ve had a vision of creating something since I was in my early twenties, after having read The Matador Trilogy by Steve Perry. Within this vision, I saw myself creating a community of people who collectively are striving to bring about a positive change to the world we live within. Similar to the characters within The Matador Trilogy, this community of people are striving to tear down antiquated beliefs and systems that are beginning to rip apart our society and build new ones which can restore our humanity. At the time of the vision in my early twenties, I just thought it was a childish fantasy but now looking back on the last twenty five years of my life since that vision, I realize I’ve been trying to accomplish this without even knowing it.

For example, during my time building video game communities online, I always built them upon a positive cultural foundation. In effect, I wanted them to be havens apart from the stereotypical negative culture that 80% or more of the community normally proliferated. And amazing enough, with the help of some close friends, we were able to pull this off and create positive and caring environments of learning and knowledge sharing that many of us still fondly remember to this very day. But simply put, even though at the time I was doing it for fun, deep within me my heart was naturally doing it for a specific reason, almost as though it was an experiment or test for something greater to come.

And yet in reviewing this all last night and this morning, one important question remained for me. During a lot of my online community building, where I built communities to share my video game knowledge and experience, I did so because I had first achieved a sense of mastery and awareness of the game. The question that was left unanswered though was what mastery and awareness did I have to share in real life? It obviously didn’t have anything to do with my technical or design skills (i.e. web design, coding, scripting, etc) because there are a ton of people out there who have a greater mastery of those skills than I do. No, whatever my mastery and awareness is, it must come naturally to me. And that’s when I realized my mastery and awareness is self-identity, something which is a prevalent problem with many people today, particularly the youth of the world. And again a perfect example of this mastery is the enjoyment I received in helping people with their website branding and identity. In fact, many people whom I helped often expressed excitement and joy after clarifying their identity and differentiation as a business. And even from my perspective, I enjoyed this identity “discovery” aspect of the work much more so than the actual designing and building of the website.

So now that I know what I’ve naturally been progressing towards my entire life, now comes the challenge of how to get there and manifest this vision of mine into a reality. For now, the natural thing to do is to continue what I started on this website and share my thoughts with others but aimed more specifically at self-discovery because if I can help even just one other person with their own self-discovery and passion then it will all be worth it. In light of this, I’ve changed my site byline from “Life in Design” back to my previous mantra of “Connect. Empower. Inspire.” I’ve done this for two reasons. The first reason being that before you can connect, empower, and inspire others, you must first connect, empower, and inspire yourself. Secondly while we are all striving to “design” a better life for ourselves, we must realize it is more about chipping away the layers to reveal what’s at our heart, rather than reshaping what we naturally already are.

In closing, below is a short snippet from The Alchemist that I think is a great metaphor for the life and journey of self-discovery that I have experienced thus so far.

The desert was all sand in some stretches, and rocky in others. When the caravan was blocked by a boulder, it had to go around it; if there was a large rocky area, they had to make a major detour. If the sand was too fine for for the animals’ hooves, they sought a way where the sand was more substantial. In some places, the ground was covered with the salt of dried-up lakes. The animals balked at such places, and the camel drivers were forced to dismount and unburden their charges. The drivers carried the freight themselves over such treacherous footing, and then reloaded the camels. If a guide were to fall ill or die, the camel drivers would draw lots and appoint a new one.

But all this happened for one basic reason: no matter how many detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same compass point. Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course, sighting on a star that indicated the location of the oasis. When the people saw that star shining in the morning sky, they knew they were on the right course toward water, palm trees, shelter, and other people.

Natural vs Alien

I grew up immersed within nature. It was an incredible feeling because I felt like I knew who I was and how I fit into the greater scheme of things on this planet. As I got older though and started joining the work force of society, that naturalness quickly evaporated to be replaced by a feeling of totally unnaturalness and alienation. For a short time, I was perplexed as to why business worked so unnaturally, yet eventually I just accepted it as “the way things were and had always been”. Today, however, I realize that this isn’t the case. We as a society have created this unnaturalness and alienation around us. And so too can we as a collective create a better and more natural future for ourselves once again, if we so choose to do so.

And you realize that during a moment
where they experienced a grievance
that anyone in this audience could imagine possibly
encountering or feeling themselves,
they felt alienated.

Jared Cohen, Thinking and Doing Around Radicalization

Isn’t alienation at the root of so many of our problems? Alienated individuals make an alienated society. And we are that — alienated from nature, from the Great Spirit of life, from our own souls and their gifts, and from each other. Isn’t there at the base of apathy, at the root of every mean and violent act, an alienated individual who feels powerless and adrift? Isn’t so much of the hostility we see reflected in our youth today simply a cry, a scream that says, “I can’t do it. I can’t express. I can’t make a constructive difference”? Perhaps as a society, we are better to encourage and develop the good within young people than to concentrate on answering their cries with greater punishment. People are good and will do good if they think they can. Youth look to their elders for the way, but they will not be deceived. There is no substitute for authentic examples.

Laurence G. Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Lao Tzu believed that when people do not have a sense of power they become resentful and uncooperative. Individuals who do not feel personal power feel fear. They fear the unknown because they do not identify with the world outside of themselves; thus their psychic integration is severely damaged and they are a danger to their society. Tyrants do not feel power, they feel frustration and impotency. They wield force, but it is a form of aggression, not authority. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that individuals who dominate others are, in fact, enslaved by insecurity and are slowly and mysteriously hurt by their own actions. Lao Tzu attributed most of the world’s ills to the fact that people do not feel powerful and independent.

R.L.Wing, The Tao of Power

Win Win

Mommy, where’s daddy?
He’s running.
From what?

What’s it like to be as good as you are?
It feels like I’m in control of everything, you know.
It must be nice.

This is your place.
This is your place.
You control it, remember?
You control it.