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On Breaking Patterns

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“… by a process which C.G. Jung called “enantiodromia”, the attainment of any extreme position is the point where it begins to turn into its own opposite—a process that can be dreary and repetitious without the realization that opposite extremes are polar, and that poles need each other.”

This extract from Alan Watts’ ‘The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are‘ has been one of my highlights from the book. I have thought on several occasions how the strange nature of opposites creeps up on us when we least expect it, and have seen it play in my own life.

I had an interesting chat with a friend once. She mentioned that she doesn’t have an extreme point of view on anything. She’s somewhat neutral about most things, without taking a very strong stand. She went on to explain how she thought it was futile to have an extreme point of view on anything.

We soon realised that this itself was an extreme point of view. It was an extreme position against taking extreme positions.

It had become its own opposite.

I was fascinated by how we cannot escape the nature of opposites in our personalities and behaviour.

This led me to think about attitudes, behaviour and by extension, culture. If culture can be seen as shared attitudes and behaviour: then it can be construed that any culture that takes any perspective too far, becomes its own opposite. Even if that was a good perspective to begin with.

For instance, a culture that promises to be constantly ‘creative’, does ‘creativity’ over and over again and soon the ‘creative’ process becomes rote. It becomes the very impediment to true creativity. This; I fear, is the true problem with most ‘creative’ industries and why true creativity has been reduced to a label for rote.

The same is true for any culture that tries to be constantly ‘innovative’. For  true innovation to exist: the uninspired must exist too. And when ‘innovation’ is all one does, it becomes repetitive and leads to very little true innovation.

Any culture, individual, or group that is driven by a philosophy manifested in action must constantly question its own action. It must ensure that its philosophy does not become merely a label to a process of repetition that then becomes a mockery for what the philosophy truly represents.

It is essential to break our norms. Break our patterns. In order that our action be truly aligned with our philosophy. In order that our actions be truly fulfilling.

Image credit: Alain Jaquier

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All Kidding Aside

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All jokes are inside jokes.

Just that some circles are bigger than others.

Comedy is always contextual.

If you understand the joke, it is due to context.

In fact I would go so far as to say that a joke is only funny, due to its context.

A joke in Germany is merely an anecdote in Italy.

A joke in my circle of friends, is meaningless to your circle of friends.

Comedy; like language and culture, is shared norms and meaning within a group of people.

If anything, comedy is often used as a means to bring to light what is wrong within a group. What is questionable, detestable and discomforting in the meaning that is shared.

Humor does this by exaggerating that which is obvious, and saying that which nobody is willing to admit.

The concerns that plague a group of people who share meaning, are often reflected in it’s comedy.

Hence we can use a group’s comedy as an indicator of the meaning that this group shares.

Any group.

A group of friends.

A country.

A company.

Through humor we can learn much about them.

Hang by culture’s metaphorical water coolers, listen to the comedy and you will learn much about your culture. And by extension, yourself.

And if you wish to change the culture of your company, don’t ask people what it is they would change in management.

Listen to what it is they choose to laugh about.

Picture courtesy: nerdwriter1: Louis CK Is A Moral Detective

On Putting Yourself ‘Out There’

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I recently had someone come up to me and tell me that I had inspired them to start their own blog.

To say that I was taken aback, would be an understatement, for several reasons that I shan’t dwell on here. We went on to have an interesting chat on the importance of putting yourself out there.

This is something I have always felt strongly. I have sensed in people, a fundamental fear of putting ourselves out there: whether it is at a personal level in pursuit of romantic and platonic relationships; or professionally in the act of sharing our thoughts and our work.

While the professional market is structured that way; in that we have to sell our abilities, it is not surprising to find many young professionals uncomfortable with the act of having to do this. Putting ourselves out there is often a result of necessity, than choice.

Is it fear of rejection, disguised as humility?

I have often wondered what implications this has for the way our lives pan out.

So, dear reader, thank you for putting yourself out there, and reminding me to do the same. You know who you are!

What do we create?

earthwithoutart

Really.

What do we create? Those of us who are in the creative business.

Do we simply create a means for a company to sell more? Or do we create a thought that resonates with people long after they have heard it?

Do we interrupt people’s lives with messages they don’t want to hear? Or do we share with them something powerful and beautiful they keep wanting to come back to?

During my interactions with my MBA classmates who came from different streams of business, I was often singled out for being ‘the advertising guy’. By extension the guy who everybody thinks is evil and pollutes their world with meaningless, needless messages that they find as interruptions. Worse off, I represented a cost centre and my contributions were never seen on the balance sheet or income statement. But that’s a question I’ve already answered.

The irony that I was questioned by my classmates from the big banks that led to the global financial crisis, did not escape me. Neither did the irony that the videos they’d most share on their social media were the work of my accomplices from advertising across the world. This irony, did escape them.

So, to my accomplices, I ask again: What do we create?

I found Dave Kuhl’s post on AdAge particularly interesting to remind us why we are here. But let me take out my favourite part of what he calls “The Bernbachian Oath”:

“.. in addition to selling, we believe we also make a taste contribution. People are exposed more to advertising than to any other form of art of writing. And by doing good art and copy we can upgrade the level of public taste.”

I cannot add to the words of Bernbach, and I shall not try to do so. But when I see powerful advertising, and when I see those people who question us also share our work in their lives, I am convinced that we create something beautiful. And damn, I’m proud to be a part of creating something that’s beautiful!

So let’s realise that we have an obligation to the world. It is our canvas. Let’s fill it with something beautiful. Or entertaining. Or at least informative.

Or not at all.

On that note, here’s AKQA with this beautiful piece that urged me to write this post: