Category Archives: Life Itself

Create the change you want to see in the world, one environment at a time

Today I came across this article from Peter Bregman on the HarvardBusiness.org site, titled: The Easiest Way to Change People’s Behavior. It’s an excellent read and highly recommended.

What Peter discusses in this article is that one of the most important motivational factors in our lives is environment. If you put the right things in front of you, you’ll tend to use them more. Move them away, and they’ll get used less.

This goes for good things as well as bad things. On the positive side, consider proximity of the things that are beneficial: The gym is only a block away, so you go regularly. If the gym is far, you don’t go. Some examples based on the article:

  • Use a bigger spoon or plate, and you eat more. Use smaller ones and you eat less.
  • Live near a liquor store or a Burger King and people tend to drink more and eat more junk food. Place yourselves farther away from those and you tend not to indulge in such sins.
  • For musicians, keep your instrument and music in an area where you’ll most likely use it. Designate a practice area and have your instrument either out of it’s case or put the case in an easily accessible area. Music on the stand. Metronome on the desk. Ready to go. (I personally have found having a tuner (iStrobeSoft) and metronome (Dr Betotte TC) on my iPhone to be one of the biggest music practice productivity boosts yet. No searching for gadgets…)
  • Want kids to do their homework? Give them a clean, organized place to do it and make sure the homework is there and not floating around the house in some random place. (I know this from experience…)

In a Web 2.0 context, this equates to the usability of your software. Make it easy for your users to get things done, and they’ll do it without a hitch. Throw up roadblocks, and they’ll get stuck. It doesn’t matter how small the roadblock is or whether or not the construct was well intentioned or not – if it impedes usability, then it will impede usability. 😉

In a greater sense, there’s a lesson for the nation or the world: If you want people to change the way they are doing things, make them want to do it. Make it easy for them. Remove any and all barriers to getting things done. You want people to vote? Put voting booths in more neighborhoods or promote the option to vote by mail. Need people to get immunized? Set up neighborhood clinics. Want your employees to be more productive? Find out what is it about your office environment that is getting in the way or not helping promote the results you want to see. For kids, for employees, for citizens, provide the right environment and make it a place they want to be.

The Importance of Mentor

Finding the right mentor is more important than anything else. This quote struck me as a perfect example of the mentor-disciple relationship:

Confronted with a sudden, near-lethal dose of humility, my mind hatched an insane plan. Acting with cleverness and boldness unmatched before or since, I started looking for Wil Shipley. When I finally found him, I blurted out: ���I want to work for you, with no pay, for one year.��� When I got back to Seattle, I sold my condo, gave away most of my things, and moved into Wil’s basement.

For certain disciplines, teacher is everything. Sure you can learn programming and do it well on your own with a solid curriculum of books, dedication, and a few classes. But having an iconic mentor to guide you through and provide answers to your most vexing questions on demand is a huge boost. The same goes for music study: You can go far with private lessons and lots of practice, but having the right teacher makes a big difference when you look at the statistics. Jason Heath states:

Music performance degrees are completely superfluous to your pursuit of a music performance career.

Check out his post on this for the numbers. It is an interesting statistical analysis – the four double bass teachers clearly show a strong track record for who gets hired in modern orchestra bass sections.

I say if you want to do something with your life and are willing to make a life-changing and risky change in your life to pursue that goal, then stop being such a chicken and go for it.

Recommended Music Reads

Jason Heath recently noted some book recommendations for musicians from Chicago bassist Greg Sarchet. I have a few of my own that I’d like to add to the mix!

  • Zander, Rosamund, and Benjamin Zander. The Art of Possibility
    –I complained loudly when I was in Ben’s orchestra rehearsals, and thought he was a nut in class. To this day he is one of the most influential figures in my life. This is a must-read.
  • Green, Barry, and W. Gallwey. Inner Game of Music
    –We can’t forget Barry Green’s book!
  • Hofstadter, Douglas. G√∂del, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
    –Because you are an effing geek. Seriously, this book is a key component for my theories on the correlations between music and science.

8 Random Things

I’ve been hit with a meme. I usually ignore these. It’s like getting hit with a tax bill. Or a subpoena. But for a couple of reasons I’m following up on this one. First of all, it came about because of very special circumstances that are close to me – a person whom I have never (probably) met, but who crossed paths with me when I was very young. Second, because I have a raging case of ennui (I feel so Henry Miller) this afternoon and need something to move me forward. Lastly, this reminds me that I need to stay a bit more up to date my primary node contacts in the blogosphere.

The rules for this meme are:

  1. Let others know who tagged you.
  2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
  3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
  4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Eight random facts. About me? Hmmmm… OK, I think in the spirit of this exercise, I am going to avoid talking about anything obvious such as “I play the bass” or “I speak a little Mandarin.” I’ll have to think about this one. Here goes:

  1. I almost always wear black. I’m not a goth or some depressing artiste or something. That’s just my innate preference. I don’t know why – someone who I had not seen in over 20 years pointed this out to me last October at an event at my old high school Athenian last October by saying “I remember you used to always wear black.” I was in fact wearing a black shirt under a gray suit with a long black overcoat. What can I say? I’m a winter, not a summer…
  2. Cloudy, misty, foggy, cool weather is my favorite climate. I’m not big on hot or even warm weather. Again, this has nothing to do with the wearing black thing.
  3. My Myers-Briggs personality type is ENTP. This is generally classified as extremely creative, scholarly, verbose, and really terrible at follow-through. Nothing could be more true on that last point at least… 😉
  4. I began playing the double bass at the age of nine and started guitar around twelve. I planned to major in both until it was recommended that I narrow it down to one for NEC – where I settled on the double bass. To this day I still practice both. This may very well be related to my ENTP-ness as mentioned previously.
  5. I am writing out a blog post for this meme, when I should be finishing up my homework! 😉
  6. I think I may have had celiac-like symptoms as early as at age 25. I was finally diagnosed two years ago, at 37. After going gluten-free, I can truly say that I haven’t felt this healthy since my early 20’s.
  7. I have had a strong feeling for the past couple of years that civility has been mostly lost from society. I was particularly pleased to see that the person who memed (is that a verb now?) me had also recently blogged on this very same subject.
  8. For some odd reason, I am fascinated with remote human habitation in extreme climates or remote locations. Some that have caught my attention include Svalbard, Tristan da Cunha, and space habitats.

OK now to assign some pumpkins:

  1. Michael
  2. Matt
  3. Jason A.
  4. Jason H.
  5. Steph
  6. Brandon
  7. Seamaiden
  8. Ellen

There you go – my one and only, and probably final contribution to blogmemedom. I think I have less ennui now, because I have this pressing urge to finish my homework.