Framing vs Finishing

I’m not a great finisher. This is something I’ve struggled with since I can remember. I don’t think of it as the same thing as procrastination. If something is interesting I jump right in, no delays. But finishing is hard. Getting that great idea to cruising altitude is less interesting than starting something new.

Maybe it has to do with my personality type. I’m an abstract thinker- at least according to Myer Briggs and everyone that knows me pretty well. I think and speak in analogies as much as realities. My thinking often moves very quickly between idea and realization. The actual execution seems like an afterthought. But it’s not, making that idea happen is super critical. But, honestly, it often bores me. The logistical nature of execution is fatiguing.

Someone once said to me “well maybe you're more of a framer than a finisher?” It was an aha moment. I finally understood why I got bogged down or distracted.

I’m definitely a framer. I can see the potential of an idea, sketch the outlines and see it come to life. In many ways, at that point, I’m done. It has already happened and I’ve experienced the joy of seeing it happen in my imagination. The actual execution, with all of its realities and human messiness, now feels almost like an afterthought. But out of curiosity to see what works I often dive in, feeding off the momentum of the initial ideation energy. I crave new experiences. Starting things is always exciting. 

But every new “thing” needs structure and support. Businesses and projects can’t live off of analogies and ideas. They need people, resources and money. Lots of money. Ugh. 

All of this has lead me to somewhat resent money. I get its purpose and I’ve worked hard to accept its role in my life, but man, it is such an blecky thing- quantifying everything through the lens of the dollar. I’m not sure what the alternative is but I would love to get to a place where I never think about it. The only way I'll be able to do that is to have enough money to not think about it. At least in theory.

Which is why I need to become a better finisher. There is money in finishing. And there is freedom in money. All my wishing for it to be otherwise won’t make it so. If I want more freedom, which I do, I will need more money. I want to do great things. To help create truly meaningful work for great people. Lots of people.

So to get things done, and learn new habits, I’ve tried to surround myself with finishers. Folks who actually thrive on taking frameworks and making them real. Turning sketches into full color drawings. I marvel at their ability to stay focused on one thing for hours. I can do that in spells but only when creating something new. Once it is birthed, I move on. 

Take this blog for instance. This post particularly. My temptation is to lock it away in Evernote, with so many other 3/4 written posts, and not publish it. Although I’m not a great finisher I am something of a perfectionist. In the sense that I hate putting out half-baked stuff. I want everything I produce to be clean, crisp and have consistent logic. But that can be paralyzing. So I’m going to try and loosen my grip a little. Move the goal posts and accept the truth in the maxim “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. I would rather be good than perfect. Wouldn’t you? 

Brain Zappers, Phantom Texting & The Death of Empathy

"The future looks like a screen"- Nada Surf "The Future"

I've never had a new idea while looking at a screen. Have you? It's like screens are brain zappers. They seem to dampen not induce the creative spark. My experience has been more like:

Take a walk, get an idea, flesh it out then go to a screen- research, write, etc. 

How do we co-habitat with all of these screens? They drain our attention like water in a tub. We forget why we even went to them in the first place- a knee jerk reaction to open a browser, turn on the TV or pull our phone out of our pockets. Then we are gone, our reason for opening the screen lost and our minds feeding on whatever looks most 

We are simply not wired for screens. To our animal minds they are bright shiny objects in a cave. And let's be honest, we are still mostly ruled by our animal minds. 

I was having breakfast with some business friends recently including George Evans from Brandwidth. He told us about interviewing 3 recent college grads. When he asked them questions their thumbs began to make texting movement. Phantom texting! Their communication pathways had been rewired through their hands. Yikes! 

Some people think the next generation will, essentially, be a different species from the ones that came before. They will be wired early on to interact via screens and devices not people and faces. This is very concerning. I'm concerned we are losing our ability to feel empathy for each other.

Current and future generations may really struggle with empathy.  They will have spent most of their lives staring at screens more than faces. We already see this, kids that rarely look up from their screens.

Adults, that's the rest of us, aren't setting a very good example. We should know better since we grew up in the (mostly) analog world and know its joys- a beautiful Fall day, leaves crunching underfoot, being completely immersed in a conversation with a close friend, no technology to be found. 

Technology has become a third wheel in our lives. It has a valid and important role but increasingly it's just getting in the way. It's interrupting meetings, conversations, dinner and even sex. It is a threat to human intimacy. 

Empathy is, in many ways, what sets us apart from other animals. As we lose our ability to empathize the suffering of others will feel more and more remote. Even those in our lives our "loved ones". This is how really bad things happen. When people stop caring about other people. 

What's the solution? I'm not entirely sure. But I think we need to create limits on technology in our lives. This is hard to do, in part, because so much basic communication (texts, emails and calls) flows through our phones.

So here's an idea: what about an app or setting for phones that turns them into...phones. Just phones, nothing else. Like airplane mode, "phone-only" mode. Surely this is possible. But I've searched and can't find it.

And getting back to where we started- that "phone-only" idea actually came to me walking to and from the bathroom while writing this post. Damn brain zapping screens!