Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Gems from the Experience Designer

I need to save a couple of these gems from the Brian Alger. He's done some intense thinking about our relationship to work and learning...and he can articulate these ideas better than I seem to be able to. The first is his review of a book that sounds fascinating: Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. His take on the book:
"David Whyte asks us to think about our work as a "lifelong pilgimage." What is important here is that Whyte has first asked us to expand our sense of time and to consider work as a journey through life that involves unknowns. Work is as much about the journey of the soul through the world as it is developing a career and making money."
He also references a previous post of his that digs deep into questions of identity, purpose and work:
"People are demanding more not just from the work that they choose (or are required) to do but from life itself. This is not rampant selfishness or greed as far as I can tell, but it is a search for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life. It is a search for identity and a quest to create a greater sense of unity between the work we do and the kind of life we wish to lead. It places us squarely in the face of the requirement to make money and earn an income in a way that helps us to build our life and the lives of others."

Monday, August 30, 2004

Wannado City

I laughed out loud at Pat Kane's post about Wannado City, a job-focused theme park for kids. He somehow manages to describe the theme park, weaves in the perfect Marxist quote, and throws in a reference to one of my favourite old campy movies about an Old West theme park for adults who end up getting maimed when the robots run amok.

I really like the idea of young people trying out possible futures, but this concept will only appeal to younger kids who won't get any career-planning benefits out of the deal. Why not take your kids to a real fire station instead of to a cheesy theme park? It's one those real-world places that sounds like it should only exist in a Simpsons-Go-to-Florida episode when Disney World is closed for repairs.

Kate Yandoh seems to share my skepticism, wondering whether kids are more into the pizza parlor than the life-like surgeon's hospital their parents are trying to steer them towards.

Seven-Day Weekend

Through a great post in Worthwhile, I found an excerpt from a book called The Seven-Day Weekend, written by the CEO of a Brazilian company who takes a radical approach to his not-very-radical business:
  • "It's our lack of formal structure, our willingness to let workers follow their interests and their instincts when choosing jobs or projects."
  • "It's our insistence that workers seek personal challenges and satisfaction before trying to meet the company's goals."
  • "It's our commitment to encouraging employees to ramble through their day or week so that they will meander into new ideas and new business opportunities."
  • "It's our philosophy of embracing democracy and open communication, and inciting questions and dissent in the workplace."
What he's describing is pretty much the opposite of most corporate culture in North America, which is why so many creative people feel stifled in their work. And it's working -- his company is fabulously successful, with (surprise!) almost no employee turnover.

Career Quizzes

Curt's post today about multiple intelligences reminded me that I was going to link to the the HRDC's iQuizzes page. It's got a bunch of quick assessments to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, mostly tying back to possible careers that match your characteristics.

Most students get pushed through one of these kinds of quizzes when they have no clue what they're doing after high school. Ideally it gives them some vague sense of career direction, perhaps enough to help them choose some post-secondary education. In reality, I wonder how effective they are. How useful have you found these things? If you haven't tried them before, take one of the iQuizzes and leave a comment here. Of particular interest to me:
  • Do they give you any new insight, or just confirm what you already knew?
  • Are the suggestions realistic/attainable?
    Does knowing more about your traits actually help you envision a better future?

Sunday, August 29, 2004


We watched a bit of the Ironman Canada competition today, passing (in our car, lazy as ever) some participants who had finished their 2.5-mile swim, were nearly done their 120-mile bike ride, and still had to do a full 26-mile marathon before their day was done. Tannis checked the site for results when we got home and we saw this clip:
"The crowd goes wild for the local hero: The crowd here is going crazy in anticipation of the first local winner of Subaru Ironman Canada! Tom Evans, a dentist who is only practicing one day a week in order to train, has seen all that training pay off with a win here today!"
I'm blown away by the obvious lifestyle focus of anyone who can even attempt this grueling event, but there's something really compelling about a guy who only works one day a week so he can prepare for his races. I think that's lifestylism.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Ten Reasons to be Optimistic has a bunch of good, big ideas to make you think about the future with less cynicism. A few with huge lifestyle implications across society:
  • Women are slowly gaining power and influence in our society. Young women are better educated and better informed than any generation in our history.
  • Not having children is no longer, for the first time in our culture, considered selfish or anti-social.
  • In the next decade much of the baby boom generation will be retiring. That means a huge number of people, a generation with a penchant for change, will suddenly have an enormous amount of time to think, to learn, to do things for reasons other than financial gain.

Life's Checklist

Tightly Wound writes a hilarious post about Life's Checklist, covering some of society's old expectations of what lifestyles we should have:
"Life's Checklist was the litany of questions that carefree swingin' twenty-somethings received from elders and later from the already marrieds among their social sets. The questions were well-meaning small talk, but they always had the effect of making the questionee feel somewhat pressured, even if the questionee was generally well-adjusted and pleased with her life's course."
Read the whole post for a great laugh recalling every awkward conversation you've had at weddings with people you barely know. Why this overwhelming urge to pressure childless couples into having kids, single people into marrying and independent workers (contracts, consulting, entrepreneurs) into "real jobs"?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Getting Out of the Funk

The only local blogger I follow, Jeffery Simpson, posted a link to Rivers Cuomo's blog (from Weezer). Rivers' introspective look at unhappiness and the creative process got Jeffery thinking about what he needs to do to be happy, leading him to a number of resolution-like ideas for lifestyle changes.

So why link to a couple of bummed-out dudes in Lifestylism? Because I think these kinds of course corrections are essential in creating the lives we want. My mental space hasn't been great this summer, so I have been thinking along similar lines. When anyone goes through an extended period of not feeling happy, they start looking around for things to change. Do I need to quit my job, move, drop a course, take a course, do something creative, make a bunch of to-do lists, spend more time with friends, or just relax? Maybe all of those things, but you don't just want change for change's sake.

Creative Cities

After reading Rob's riffing about immigration and creative cities, I dug into Richard Florida's stuff again:
"Such people tend to be mobile. Having the skills and the means to live wherever they choose, they will be attracted to (or remain in) city-regions that offer the amenities and the broad 'quality of place' they desire."
This report also came out last week, bringing together some of the same ideas: Creative Cities: What Are They For, How Do They Work, and How Do We Build Them? This stuff interests me because it seems to be an obvious manifestation of lifestylism -- these mobile creative folks are living where they feel like it, rather than feeling trapped in any one place. They're also working where they want to in those places, and often when they want to, working as employees only if it suits their needs for a while.

Your Personal Patchwork

Patching takes a fairly radical approach to business reorganization and applies it to individuals trying to represent their skills and abilities. The asset portfolio diagram is most interesting. I'm a sucker for visual representations of a person's identity, even if it only focuses on their work life. Now imagine this taken a few steps further to reflect your non-work values, interests, and relationships...then have each section linking to writing, photos, other people, resources, personal records...and you could decide who gets to see what.

Life Path and Distractions

I've had Chris Corrigan's post about life paths saved for about four months, but never got around to posting it. He talked with a native elder about how distractions take us away from our true nature, and I liked the image they talked about:
"Sonny therefore advocates an approach to life that he calls 'two steps forward and one step back.' There is an implicit distrust of easy progress, requiring one to ensure that one hasn't strayed into a right hand side diversion. Building in periods of reflection serves to confirm progress and also make retreat easier, should that need to happen."
And how to figure out what that true nature or path is for us? By going out and doing stuff -- we probably know when we're in alignment with it (or more likely when we're not). In a way, the distractions in the diagram aren't necessarily bad...they're artifacts of our experiences. Interesting follow-up from Curt on the same post.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Life in School

The Experience Designer sent me over to a wonderful writer named Dax-Devlon Ross. I was fascinated by his account of his second day as a public school teacher following his first reading some advice from education revolutionary John Taylor Gatto:
"Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology - all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can."
Ross responded by scrapping his carefully planned lesson for the day and reading Against School out loud to all of his classes. What a start to a teaching career! Gatto's stuff really sets school up as the antithesis of lifestylism, a system designed to beat the creativity and self-determination out of generations of children. It's harsh, but definitely provides food for thought.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Play Ethic and Work

For a guy totally devoted to the Play Ethic, Pat Kane talks a lot about work. And thank goodness he does, because it's always good stuff, showing the way toward a better relationship with that four-letter word. A few samples:

Experience Designer

Brian Alger is writing some profound and enlightening ideas over at the Experience Designer Network. I just clipped a couple of quotes for now, but I need to go back and dig around some more:

Mind: In Search of Pattern Recognition
"One of the key questions I see being asked in a wide variety of contexts is about lifestyle or, more specifically, 'What is the style of life I wish to lead?' And the word style is becoming more closely connected with ideas about purpose, meaning, passion, vocation, integrity and value. The pursuit of this question often invokes the idea of a journey in which our authentic experiences of everyday living are placed under the lens of investigation. It brings us to the well-known metaphorical crossroads that heightens our perception and awareness of our own identity sometimes in stark contrast to the person we wish to be."
This is rich stuff, and the whole article stretched my brain. I suppose that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail...so when I started reading this quote, I was thinking "lifestylism...this is it!" Every word in the paragraph helps me figure out why it is important to consider how people define and live out their purpose.

My imagination has become my refuge...
"The dreams of what we wish to do in life are easily the most practical 'things' in living, yet the social and economic systems we find ourselves in often work against them. So we compromise in order to 'earn a living' as if living needs to be 'earned.' How many students in education systems feel this inner conflict - the dissonance between what we want to do in life versus what we are compromised into doing?"
I couldn't resist this one because it captures and combines the conflict we feel between what we want and what we believe we need to be doing.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Grown-ups Looking for Trades

An IT professional with a master's degree in linguistics taking night classes to become a veterinary technician? It looks like more people are finding a quick trip to a new career in the skilled trades. And why not? Sometimes they're following their passions (maybe they love working with animals), and other times they're following the money. As older tradespeople retire, analysts predict that the demand for workers in the trades will be huge, driving up earnings.
"Driving this trend is the shift from a manufacturing economy to a service- and information-based one. In the next 10 years, 18 of the 20 fastest-growing job fields will require technical education or on-the-job training, from medical assistants to computer analysts, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics."
Now that grown-ups are starting to see the light, how long will it be before masses of kids coming out of high school realize that four years of university-level psychology prepares them to be very introspective bartenders? What if they knew that they could have taken a 10-month car-repair program and make $50,000 right out of school?

2Do Before I Die...

So when you think about your future, how do you envision parts of it? A narrative, story, image, sort of mental video, snapshots of key moments? I like all of these, but I thought this use of stories was quite powerful: 2do before I die...? Serendipity is great, but unless we articulate these little (or big) things we want to do, they don't tend to get done. I was thinking of this concept as an extension of the career plan builder -- that it should include a way to capture the experiences you most want to have at some point in the future, aside from the usual career, education and life goals. Further along those lines, I'm loving the idea of storyboarding your life, both the past and future. What kinds of events and accomplishments would make the final cut?

Via the Occupational Adventure...

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Being Creative About Your Future

Designing a lifestyle takes creativity, especially if you're determined not to be wildly conventional in your aspirations. I appreciated this post tonight: How to Be Creative, which points out that one way to create the future is to ignore everybody, because if it's really innovative, you probably won't get smart feedback anyway. The entire list is worth checking out -- thankfully linked from Curt Rosengren's excellent blog.