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.