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This week my 11 year old daughter asked if she could download and join snapchat. I immediately nixed that idea. I haven’t nixed her getting involved in much else technically where the EULA allows it. Snapchat touched a chord and got me to thinking (again) about identity – how we identify ourselves – who we think we are – and who others think we are. I think about this deeply every so often, sometimes becoming unglued when I think too hard about it. It’s a complicated concept.

Who?

So many things contribute to the patterns that are what we are. Our identity and sense of place in this world – undoubtedly conditioned by the modern world – is built around physical place (and now virtual places) and social circles (and now virtual social networks) and status within established networks of influence. This was probably not always the case when people were far more nomadic and identity wasn’t tied to a hometown or a home school or a 150 person social network. But now, more than ever, identity is a thing.

I personally have moved residences over 20 times in my life. 13 of them different cities (social networks) and 5 across state lines.

Non Existence -> Born (don’t remember)
Littleton, CO (don’t remember, sorta remember)
Colorado Springs (k – 2nd grade)
Aurora, CO Laredo Circle House (2nd grade – 3rd grade???)
Aurora, CO Laredo Court House (4th grade??? – 7th grade)
Miami, FL Kendall House (8th grade)
Miami, FL Baptist Hospital House (9th grade – 10th grade)
Aurora, CO Salsaleto House (11th grade – 12th grade)
Aurora, CO Some Apartment I Forget Where (Summer before college)
Chicago, IL Woodward Court/Univ. Chicago (Freshman year college)
Aurora, CO Buckingham Mall House (Summer between Freshman and Sophomore Year)
Chicago, IL Woodward Court/Univ. Chicago (Sophomore year college)
Chicago, IL 53rd Street Apartment (summer between sophomore and junior year)
Chicago, IL Blackstone Building/University Chicago (Junior year college)
Chicago, IL 53rd Street Co-Op Apartment (summer between junior and senior year)
Santa Monica, CA 9th and Pico (1999)
Chicago, IL Roosevelt and Michigan Apartment (2000 – 2002)
Santa Monica, CA 9th and Pico (2002 – 2005)
Playa Vista, CA Fountainhead Apartment (2005 – 2006)
Venice, CA Abbot Kinney House (2006 – 2010)
Austin, TX Travis Heights House (2010 – 2011)
Austin, TX Deep Eddy House (2012)
Marina Del Rey, CA (2013 – present)

My own children have now moved 5 times (the oldest one) and twice across state lines.

And these are just the residence moves – not all the jobs, schools, social circles, life phases and other changes that go into making up our context and our history. I have 692 friends on facebook, a couple hundred followers on twitter, tens of followers on instagram, one attempt at snapchat, fifty pinterest followers and so on. Sometimes I think of this all as an audience, which is quite insane to me as a concept but I doubt I’m the only one that feels like they have an audience online. I’ve done speaking engagements at conferences, I’ve written 8 years of blogs, somehow I authored several whitepapers, I think i have a patent or three, I’ve performed in 40+ live theater shows, I built hundreds of websites and mobile apps with between 1 and 50 million users a month…. WHAT THE F*** DOES IT ALL ADD UP TO? WHO AM I? and WHY IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION?

It’s a question because my daughters keep finding new ways to “express themselves” and “connect to others.” They “identify” with my wife or myself by saying “oh, i’m so like mom!” They intellectually get the ideas of genetics and art and fashion and learning and the delineation between it all.  They are very keen at telling me I don’t “get” them…. I keep waiting for the day when the TSA finally says they are full human identities and require proof of the case (driver’s license/passport).

It’s also a question because everyday the Western world bombards each other in ways such as:
“what am I worth?”
“tell me about your past.”
“are you this ism or that ism?”
“what party are you?”

and every other variation of class, job history, race, culture, language, outward appearance…

Anchors is my best guess at identities. Us, limited beings, pattern creating and recognizing beings find ways to lay anchors and say THIS IS ENOUGH – THIS IS WHERE I’M DROPPING ANCHOR and REMEMBER THIS. We drop these anchors – which are complex patterns we simplify – and label them as classes, races, job titles, cultures, state lines, political parties, etc. We drop anchors to save energy. That is, we hope the anchors keep us from having to remember all of the context and history that lead us to here when we are in the heat of the moment of making a decision. We want to save time when working out who we hire, with whom we partner, with whom we commune, with whom we war…

Unfortunately.

Identity is an illusion.

We are not the isms, the races, the classes, nor the anchors we drop. We all are ever evolving changing masses of organs, cells, and atoms that respond to the changes around them. We are connected – to each other, to the Web, to the world, to nature, to everything that passes gamma rays into us – EVERYTHING.

And this isn’t a ZEN kind of thinking i’m talking about. It’s a very simple, real concept that *WE* don’t EXIST. and the idea that WE EXIST is a major reason why “we” all end up fighting and destroying and gloating and taking credit and paying dues and every other manner of paying homage to an illusion. We do this because the delusion of singular identity is efficient in many respects. Capital markets reward identities. Democracies, despite their conceptual idea of the masses, reward identities. Social media and the internet reward identities.

And in all this efficiency created by identities we actually end up destroying things. Identities are the most efficient destructive concepts we’ve collectively devised. They shut everything down. They allow entire populations to be ignored. They tune our attention out. They tune our own senses out.

It makes sense this is so and that it persists.

Can it be resisted? *I* don’t know. Can we live without it?  I don’t know.

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I finally took the time to consume the “leaked” NYTimes Innovation Report.  (on scribd and their story on it here http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2014/05/30/we-met-the-story-and-it-was-us/)

It is a remarkable business and cultural document even though I found most of its conclusions and recommendations to be off the mark.  It starkly shows just how unsettled we are as a culture here in the US, especially because of media and technology.   The authors oddly make no commentary about a complete lack of engagement that majority of the population has in important topics even though the data in the report they so carefully analyzed clearly shows.   That it is this easy for media entities to lose and gain audiences is a clear indicator that no one really is doing anything other than arbitraging various mediums for traffic.

There are a few examples in there that represent important topics, such as the Snowden/NSA story (media won by The Guardian) and the Michael Sam story (which they draw out a use case).  Unfortunately they spend more time in the report analyzing and regretting how they didn’t better take advantage of that story to drive traffic.  No where is it mentioned that their mission is to drive civic engagement or improve knowledge in the population and that they analyzed their and the competition progress on those dimensions.  

I have no doubt that at the core of NYTimes there is a really big mission to do journalism that matters in ways that have the most impact.   However, this report almost demotes that concept totally.   And in doing so the report really suggests measuring and experimenting with gimmicks (SEO, social viral tricks, a/b testing image / headline selection) is more important than measuring impact on knowledge in the population and impact to policy making and the government.   You get good and stay good at what you pay attention to (measure).   Please NYTimes don’t get good at SEO above being the BEST at having an impact on the knowledge of the world.

An example that starkly shows this… the cooking/recipes work they are doing.  Why spend any time and money on that?  there are millions and millions of recipes on the web and in apps.  There are 100s of successful cooking apps out there.   What unique impact is NYTimes having by grabbing eyeballs for this “evergreen content” from the “archives”.   There is important work being done at the NYTimes so take the people working on Cooking Apps on focus on heart and sole of the NYTimes.

It’s very much a report about keeping the business growing.   Which is definitely an important thing.  However, the gimmicks of the day are not the answer.   Don’t worry about playing games trying to entice more readers into the Daily Report.  The language in the report already conditions the thinking – shows me that they aren’t yet grokking the situation.  NYTimes doesn’t have readers anymore.  It has users.

The NYTimes could be a platform, the platform for knowledge and impact.   Its competition isn’t general news media.   It’s the network of knowledge platform technologies.   The search engine and the social network and the app store – the platform technologies are what has disrupted them, not competitors with inferior products exploiting new technologies.  These info organizing, creating and sharing platforms are the technologies and services and products that are having an impact.

I’m more bullish on NYTimes than it seems they are.   I happen to believe that NYTimes has far more impact on the world than all the competition they named combined.   Getting mentioned on Buzzfeed does nothing for a person or business or policy issue.   If most of the competition they mention went away tomorrow no one would bat an eye, the Google index would easily replace the link bait with something else.   If the NYTimes went away we would lose a major cornerstone / market maker for knowledge and depth and truth.   The NYTimes still shapes the world around it.  It has the unique position, because of it’s long held mission and depth to make the platform of impact in the future.

This is wild stuff, i know.   But really… all its media competition isn’t even close in impact nor resources nor value as Google or Facebook or Amazon….  the really foundation of our information existence.

The next big knowledge platform isn’t yet here, why couldn’t NYTimes be the one to build it?

 

 

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What is art?

Art isn’t anything.  It’s everything and nothing.  Art is pattern.  It’s narrative.  It’s expression.  Anything we do someone else could consider as art.

What’s most important is that someone else can experience us, this art, the source of art.   And art doesn’t suppose an audience in its creation.  We all create art, constantly, regardless of whether we think someone else will view it, watch it, hear it, taste it. And everyone we interact with directly or indirectly (though culture, rules, laws) influences our personal art.

Is there ART?  that is, is there something that we’d all say that’s a clear expression of art?  No.  No there isn’t.  Even when people start out with the intent to make art and they make it clear they are making ART it’s no more or less art than anything else anyone does all day.  Art is simply that which we do that becomes noticed.

The key is Does Someone Notice.  Even if that someone is YOURSELF.  Art is that thing that makes you notice, that makes you change your perspective.   That’s it.  and that’s everything.

Art’s role in life is to be noticed.  Art is about creating audience.  The more entities that notice a new perspective because of it the more relevant the art (in American culture terms).

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[By Ron Williams, former attorney, Texas native, patriot and a frequent contributor to free press expression and open forum debates of note.]

Tea Party candidate for Connecticut Senate, Christine O’Donnell, recently stated in her debate with fellow candidate Chris Coons that the Constitution, as written, provides that the government shall not interfere with the establishment or operation of the church, but that there is no prohibition against the church being involved in the operation of the state.  This is a most interesting interpretation of the Constitution.

This is an interpretation you hear many right wing conservatives espouse when they attempt to get government to somehow sponsor a church event or have the government provide money to support some church organized activity.  The most common of these activities is probably getting the government to pay for private church operated schools.

Some conservatives espouse in the opinion that the government should be operated on strict principles of Christianity.  After all, they argue that this government was formed on the principles of Christianity, so why should its daily operation not be based on those Christian principles?

There is a name for democratic governments, where religious principles dominate.  They are called theocracies.  One example of a religious-based “theocracy” is Iran.  So if taken who its logical conclusion, as in Iran, the President of the United States, Congress and the Courts would all look to the pronouncements of a religious leader in interpreting the Constitution and in the implementation of any law.

If you are okay with that proposition, we then come to the next question.  Christian beliefs will dominate government actions.  Now, which version of Christianity will that be?  Will it be the Mormons, so we can look to Utah for government principles?  What about the Catholic Church.  Catholics certainly are certainly Christians.  That means we would look to the Pope for the operation of the American government is interesting that even in Italy, with all of its Catholics, the Pope still does not run the Italian government,  But it seems that this would be okay with our conservative right wing brethren.  If not Catholics, which branch of Gentile Christianity gets to call the shots?

Of course, I believe that when the right wing conservatives talk about applying Christian principles to the American government, what they really mean on their Christian principles.  They believe that they get to decide what the rules are, what the laws are and how the government should operate.

One example of this might be the issue of abortion.  One of the great tenets of the right wing movement is to be use the size and influence of government.  They want to get government out of their lives.  Whether or not to have an abortion is one of the most intimate and difficult decisions a woman can make.  Then they would turn around and take the most intimate decision away from women.  Right wing conservative would use the government to interfere in the intimate private lives of women.  Explain to me how that is getting the government out of American citizen’s lives?

So what we come to, I believe, is that the people who call for the integration of church and state don’t really believe in democracy at all.  They believe in a government run on their principles regardless of the feelings, beliefs, attitudes and opinions of other citizens.

And that is what is scary.  A group of people who call themselves patriots who in fact are doing everything they can to destroy our current democracy.  I believe we have to be careful of groups like this.  What happened in Mussolini’s Italy and 1930’s Germany.  You get some group who come into power via a democratic election, only to run the government based on their narrow political agenda.  Real democracy is kicked to the curb.  All the citizens then are required to follow the dictates of this new moral majority that control the government.

As a side note, notice how right wing Christians seem to cluster themselves around our military academies.  Also, we should take note of the investigation surrounding the command structure at the Air Force Academy which has been investigated for proselytizing the Academy’s cadets

You say it could not happen here.  And why not?  If you believe I am being extreme to accuse these Christian right wing so-called “patriots” of being actually anti-American?  Well go ask them how they feel about a government operated on Christian principles, and watch him say YES.  Then ask them how they feel about those Christian principles being dictated by the Catholic Church.

I believe right wing Christian conservative are a danger to our democracy and should be recognized as such.  A true patriot accepts the fact other patriots will have a slightly different view of democracy and allow those principles to be acknowledged in the operation of the democracy.  The beliefs of these right wing zealots show that they do not believe in that sort of free democracy.

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By Ron Williams – citizen, contributor and patriot – 8-22-10

[Ron Williams is a retired attorney living in The Woodlands, TX and a welcome guest contributor to Social Mode]

There can be no question but that there are serious issues surrounding illegal immigration into the United States.  The most pressing concern revolves around illegal immigration from Mexico.  It is interesting to note however that most people, and most particularly right-wing Republican Tea Party, are reluctant to recognize that the real issue is that illegal immigration from Mexico, which means primarily Mexicans, which causes an uncertain relationship with American citizens with Hispanic heritage.  It should not create a problem to talk about an immigration problem involving Mexicans.  After all that is the border we share where most of the illegal immigrants are entering the United States.  It is sort of like talking about a race problem in the United States and not admitting that the primary group impacted by this issue is African-Americans.

It is thus, a double whammy to watch Republicans dance around the issue of Mexican illegal immigration, when that is the very issue with which they are concerned.  The first “whammy” involves a hypocritical failure to acknowledge that the primary target of their ire is directed at Mexicans.  The second “whammy”, which I will address in a moment, is the right wing Republican constant claim of their defense of the quote “original” constitution and the claim that liberals want to change it.

Returning to the topic of illegal immigration, it is not illegal immigration from Canada that the right wing is concerned about.  It is illegal immigration from Mexico. Arizona, for example, recently passed legislation allowing its police to stop anyone they believe is an illegal immigrant.  Once stopped, that person must provide evidence that they are a legal immigrant or a US citizen.  Arizona Republicans insist that this legislation is not deemed to target Hispanics.  But just who can we imagine the police are going to be stopping, blue-eyed blondes who look like they have snuck in the country from Denmark?  No, Hispanics.

It is hypocrisy of the right wing to assert otherwise.

Thus, I believe it is not hard to make the assertion that it is because the illegal immigrants are Mexicans that the issue has gained so much prominence.  I believe that the issue of race or “racism” is at the heart of the illegal immigration controversy today.  If we had Canadian citizens flooding into this country in numbers comparable to the current influx from Mexico, I really do not believe that there would be the same cries for fence building and citizenship-checking laws being made by the conservative right wing.

In fact, it is my position that the majority of Republicans know no bounds to their hypocrisy.  Many of the Tea Party group are now pushing for an amendment to the 14th Amendment so that babies born presumably to illegal Mexican immigrants will no longer be granted automatic United States citizenship.  As being proposed, the revised 14th Amendment would provide that in order to be deemed a US citizen; you must prove that you were born of parents who were US citizens.  I don’t know about you, but I might have a hard time proving that my mother was a US citizen because I might have a hard time proving that her mother was a US citizen and so forth.  How about how you?

In fact, what sort of documentation would you have to provide in order to prove that your parents were legal citizens at the time of your birth, or even their birth?  Again, I note that this was not a problem when immigrants entered the country from England, Italy, Ireland, or even Cuba.  It’s still not a problem for anyone sneaking in from Canada.  It’s those pesky Mexicans who are creating the problem.  But the Tea Party members are too hypocritical to say the truth.  And it is also a very short step to say that racism is the driving force behind the conservative right wing Tea Parties move.  They want to prevent those Mexicans from gaining US citizenship.  The fewer Mexican heritage voters created the better.

This is even more disappointing when we have to constantly listen to Tea Party members talk about their belief in the Inviolate Constitution and their speaking with utter dismay about how liberals constantly want to reinterpret the Constitution.  The right wing does not want to “reinterpret” the original document.  They just want to change the Constitution’s actual written the language to fit whatever they believe ought to be the current end result.  Again, this is the height of hypocrisy.  For example, we can see very clearly that the “conservative” judges appointed by Republicans to the Supreme Court have been busy reinterpreting long-held legal principles in a new way to fit their Conservative views.  One would have to call these judges “activists” despite Republican claims that they are just interpreting the Constitution in its “original” understanding.  Republicans now have the nerve to claim that the two President Obama appointments to the current Supreme Court are activist judges.  Hypocrisy in Its finest form.

I have a suggestion for my Right Wing Republican Tea Party counterparts.  If we are going to open up the Constitution and revisit the 14th Amendment, let me suggest that we take another look at the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution regarding the right of the people to bear arms.  There have been some questions as to whether this amendment applied to the state militia i.e. the National Guard, or to an individual’s right to keep a handgun or even an AK-47.  If you are going to start to change the Constitution to address current issues, let’s address the question of whether we should allow individuals to own all sorts of weapons.  After all, when the 2nd Amendment was drafted we didn’t have machine guns or 15-round hand guns or 50 caliber sniper weapons.  When the Constitution was written and the amendments added, we didn’t have the large-scale drug problems or the gang wars associated with guns.

Maybe it’s time we revisit the 2nd Amendment to address these gun issues.  Somehow I bet the strict construction right wing Republicans will not be so open to revisiting the 2nd Amendment with the idea of having individual gun use restricted.  But, why not?  If they believe it’s time to revisit one of the amendments, why not start to think about taking a look at revisiting some of the others.  What about the 1st Amendment and right to free speech?  See the problem?  I’m sure that those of you reading this can think of one or two of the other amendments you believe it might make sense to revisit today.

I, for one, do not believe it is necessary to revisit any of the amendments to the Constitution.  The Constitution is broad.  It welcomes new interpretations that encompass new issues.  What is so wise about the way so drafters wrote the Constitution and its amendments is that its guiding principles provide a roadmap for addressing modern problems.  What I recommend is that my right wing Republican Tea Party friends take a deep breath and give careful consideration to what they’re really asking when they began to recommend re-writing the Constitution and its original 14 Amendments.  I really believe we would be on any dangerous course should we begin to start rewriting this important and very wise document.  We can undo the very nature of this country.  And that would be a very sad thing to do.

Finally, we must come to the conclusion that the Tea Party conservatives in fact have little use for the “real” Constitution.  They will quote its virtues to you when it suits their needs, but it will push to change its very language wind that would suit their purpose.  I believe it is the height of hypocrisy.  No more than that, I believe it shows their immorality.  And such immorality is dangerous.  Therefore, we must fight against the Tea Party conservatives because if they were to have their way, the very fabric of this country will be destroyed.  And that is not something I would like to see happen.

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To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

Third in a 5 Part Series on http://www.SocialMode.com

(1)   Sports, like businesses or social movements have goals and costs.

(2)   The best way to advance is through the “Do”.

(3)   Focus on long-term benefits as well as short-term gains

Elite athletes must practice a lot. There are no short-cuts.  In the practice process they get to make a lot of errors requiring a lot of adjustments needed for success down the road. If they focused only on success in the short term, they would not push themselves into zones beyond their immediate potential.  And yes, we’ve seen what happens to those potentially elite athletes that focused on the short-cuts… Of course, business people are no different.

So, as a business person, you need to discern whether or not you value becoming an expert at something, or navigating your company to be essential and separated from those just ‘good enough’.  If you want to excel, it will require that you push yourself out of your own comfort zones almost daily.

Like the elite athlete, you have to start somewhere.  Start with a mentor or committee and never stop practicing balancing great risk with great consequences. The bigger the risks, the larger the consequences impact more than your behavior.  If you can, get someone, or many with the skills you want, to coach, mentor and support you.

Coaching can be very helpful to guide your initial moves outside of your comfort zones. Yes, that makes you vulnerable. You may not be comfortable with that tactic but your objective requires you to change.  Learning to focus on stretching your skills to attain short-term gains AND long term benefits will mean learning to live with vulnerability, levels of discomfort and minimal comfort zones.  Why do you think so few people rise to elite levels?

NEXT: It is not ‘automaticity’ per se that leads to high proficiency

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To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

(1)   Sports, like businesses or social movements have goals and costs. In sport, the goal is to win. Thus, the most skilled movement (plan) is one that accomplishes the goal at the lowest cost.

We tend to think more of just getting something rather than the cost of getting it. That is, we tend to think less about getting what we want efficiently in terms of material, time and effort.   If that is the case, our ‘response cost’ is probably much more than that it should be to get what we want.  The same Response Cost framing can be used in assessing your work in business.

Signs that you may not be working efficiently are:

  1. you spend little time thinking about what the heck you are doing and just “do”
  2. you make immediacy and avoidance of not looking busy more valuable than expertise
  3. you work extremely hard every day for social or financial benefit not knowing exactly why

If you do any of these things, then you have not been spending enough time thinking about efficiency in your life.

So, that is one of five connections between Business People and Elite Athletes for consideration…

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