Enlightened Conflict

the last draft is for the reader

September 21st, 2017

writing the first-draft

 

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“The first draft is for the writer.

The second draft is for the editor.

The last draft is for the reader.”

 

——–

Unknown

<something I had scribbled down on a scrap of paper>

 

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“I would go on writing even if I know I would not be published.”

 

—-

John Le Carre

 

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Ok.

 

writing-typing-legacy-blog-thoughtsI write a lot.

 

Probably too much.

 

In my personal writing I can honestly say I have never posted something unedited.

Even the easiest things I have written get tightened up, edited and revised as I reread. Sometimes not much … but everything gets tweaked – some a little … some a lot.

 

Even then … typos remain.

 

Now.

 

In my professional life I use outlines, drafts and finals.

 

I do this because my mind is always at work.

 

I hear things, read things & see things and all the while my mind is juggling all of this stimulus rethinking, rewriting and recreating.

 

By the way … this acknowledges that I could, on occasion, run into some aspects of unintended plagiarism.

 

But because I am an ‘editor of things’ this means I am comfortable rearranging writing an editingthings. In fact … I never get tired of rearranging let alone thinking. I would do it 24/7 if I didn’t have to sleep.

 

However.

 

Doing all of this without any purpose or objective is simply mental masturbation.

 

That’s why the three draft rule is a good one.

 

The first draft is all about you, what you think and how you want to say things.

 

The second draft smooths out the edges and insures the personal “you” is getting in the way of clear communication and truth.

 

The third draft insures whatever YOU want to say connects with what THEY need to hear, want to hear and should hear.

 

It is a mistake to reverse this order. Reversing the order strips the presenter of any passion and creativity … it becomes more of an “order taker” type presentation or document.

 

Anyway.

 

The other thing people say about drafts is that each one eliminates so that the last one is the ‘brevity’ version.

 

I don’t agree <in general>.

hourglass

The three draft method is actually more like an hour glass.

The first draft is almost always too long and … well … too.

The second draft tends to peel shit off of what you have.

The third draft more often puts some meat back on the bones tied to the reader/audience.

 

A lot of people, simplistically, balk at this. They don’t see the meat as useful and abhor adding things at this stage.

 

Once again, I disagree.

 

I disagree because I  typically think of Claude Hopkins, a man who pioneered the concept of advertising as we know it, in 1923 <“Scientific Advertising” is a worthwhile read with worthwhile advice applicable even in today’s world>.

 

If Hopkins was known for one thing it would be “persuasion.” Everything centered on that. Not brevity or pictures versus words or any of that bullshit we waste time pontificating over these days … just persuasion and doing whatever is necessary to persuade.

 

For example.

With a prospect standing before a salesperson, would you confine him to any certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap.

 

Successful writing almost always depends on maintaining perspective – keep in mind no one really reads what you write for amusement <but that doesn’t mean you cannot amuse on occasion>.

 

Consider them as prospects standing before you, seeking for information.

Give them enough to get action.

 

Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet no one likes salespeople who talk only in loud voices.

 

We should measure everything we do by salespeople standards not by everybody needs what i am selling deserve lifeamusement standards. Ads are not written to entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers are little likely to be the people whom you want. That is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad writers abandon their parts. You can never forget you are salespeople, not a performer.

 

Seek a sale, not applause.

 

 

Regardless.

 

All presentations really can get boiled down into 3 important aspects:

 

 

  • Figure out what you want to sell <persuade people to think or do>

 

 

  • Figure out what you want to say

 

  • Figure out how you want to say it

 

All the other mumbo jumbo on ‘tricks to effective presenting’ is irrelevant if you don’t figure out these two things. In fact, I would argue you could throw away all the presentation books if you figure these two things out.

 

What you want to say sounds simple but it is not. Because inevitably you get caught up in ALL the things you want to say, prioritizing what you want to say and getting what you want to say down on paper <or whatever format you elect to organize the presentation>.

 

All I can say for sure is that you need to put it in a draft, a document or a script. Without it you cannot edit. And without editing <unless you are Bill Clinton> you are screwed.

 

Next.

 

Figuring out how you want to say it.

 

Okay. Let me tell you a truth, a fact, a ‘something no one really wants to hear.’

 

speak out microphone find your voice

99% of the time what you just figured out to say will sound like crap if you just read it as a presentation.

Maybe 99.9% of the time. Writing & speaking are two different skills. They may be derivatives of each other but one typically does not translate directly to the other.

 

There will always be presenters who are obviously reading their presentation script off a teleprompter <which is a skill in itself by the way> and it sounds obviously stilted and in some cases like it was the first time they had heard these words out loud.

 

And the issue wasn’t because they were reading a script <another complaint young people throw around when arguing they want to be ‘natural’ when presenting>. It was the script they were reading. They wrote something that sounded good in their head when they read it … but sounded stupid when actually saying it. By the way … that is why rehearsing is important.

 

Why does this shit happen? Well. Let me give you 3 thoughts <beyond the obvious lack of rehearsing>:

 

–          Forced rules of behavior

 

All the things I am going to type drive me crazy, but maybe this one the most.

These are the ‘rules’ like … you cannot stand still, or you have to move, or you can’t have your hands in your pockets, or … well … just go ahead and pick up a ‘how to’ presentation book … they will list all the ‘don’t rules’.

 

Nuts.

 

I just say ‘nuts’ to that.speaking dreams

 

I have stood with hands in my pockets just stepping up to the microphone and delivered. No one cared I wasn’t using my hands.

Why?

Because they were listening to what I had to say. As a generalization … all the ‘how to present’ rules are stupid. If you have something good to say, and you say it in a compelling, believable, likeable way, the rest of the stuff just gets in the way. It’s all about the message. If you know, and like, your message just deliver it in as comfortable a ‘behavior’ style you want.

 

Nuts to all the book rules.

 

–          Forced passion

 

This one drives me nuts too. It’s kind of like speaking with exclamation points hoping the exclamation points travel through the ether between you and your audience and pricks them in the ass to make them stand up and yell “hell yeah!”

 

online megaphone listen speakSome people shout.

Some people create sentences which they purposefully amplify the end.

Some people shake a fist, or pound a table or make some ‘exclamatory’ gesture just so everyone knows they are passionate about whatever they are talking about.

Sometimes they don’t really want to do this shit but someone suggests “show them you are passionate” and … well … the wheels start to fall of the good presentation wagon.

 

Why?

It’s all forced.

 

And it’s a shame because most presenters are actually passionate about something related to their topic <assuming you do the three draft method – me, edit, reader – in that order>. And they don’t need to be overt to communicate it. They just need to share their passion in whatever way they exude it.

 

I have been extremely passionate on a topic … and all I did was talk. I said how she felt and what I believed. And you know what? People believed me. they may not have been persuaded … but they believed what I had to say.

 

Here is the bottom line. If you care, it will show. You need not tell someone you are passionate. In fact … here you go … a rule.

Never say in a presentation, meeting or discussion … “I am passionate about ‘x’.”

Prove it without ever saying it.

 

 

–          Forced relevance <or forced theme>

 

I almost split this into two but they are just two sides of the same coin. In an attempt to make their topic relevant to either the audience or the environment <you can choose either> a presenter can go to some fairly absurd lengths.presentation asleep

 

They can use a joke which isn’t really relevant until you explain why.

 

Well, let me say this, 99% of the time if you are using a joke or come up with some forced relevance it means you are working too hard. Go back to the simple first aspect and think about what it is you want to say. If it isn’t compelling or understandable, a joke or forced metaphor or forced semi-topical linkage isn’t going to help.

 

In fact it can hurt.

 

How?

 

Because it is extraneous. And extraneous things and activity tugs the audience away from what you really want them to remember and say. I don’t usually get aggravated over this one instead I just get frustrated that the speaker doesn’t trust the topic is interesting enough, and it can be presented interestingly enough, to simply present it.

 

Lastly.

 

If I want to connect with the reader/listener with my last draft I have to put the screws down on the persuasion aspect.

And I would suggest you think about this slightly differently than many people talk about it – think about the fact what you are saying has to meet some price/value equation.

 

Simplistically … this is about alignment.

 

And, no, this isn’t about ‘first impressions’ because a presentation is a compilation/summary of impressions.

 

We all know this <but I will remind you anyway> … we are evaluating things all the time.

 

And even if we recognize that we are evaluating <like in viewing a presentation> we still don’t even recognize much of the evaluation that takes place because much of it is actually usually automatic, subconscious.

 

There has been a boatload of research done on evaluation which I will not bore you with … but will share a cliff notes summary of key points:

 

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This process of evaluation can be broken down into the rising and falling of moment memory valuetwo perceptions:  Perceived Cost and Perceived Benefit.  To be clear, the cost of something is not just money.  Cost is the receipt of something negative or the release of something positive whereas Benefit is the release of something negative or the receipt of something positive.

Any time a value presentation is made, be it a candy bar in the checkout rack at a grocery store, a pair of earrings online, or a proposal to marry, there is an initial phase when you open your mind “file cabinet” and pull the “folder” associated with whatever value is being presented.  As you open this folder, certain things will jump out at you, influencing your initial perceived cost and benefit of the value presented.  What is in that folder, what items you pull first, and how much each item affects you depends on two things:

 

  1. Your history with the value presented

 

  1. How it is initially presented

 

It’s also important to note here that the point at which a visitor makes a commitment to the transaction is not the same point at which they complete the transaction.  The time between the commitment and the transaction should be as short and simple as possible.  The more complex and time-consuming it is, the more chance the frustration of the transaction process or the “cold feet” effect could keep it from happening.

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Look.

 

Like it or not … even our presentations are being evaluated through this wacky thing called heuristics.

Pricing/value cues abound within presentations … believability cues abound within presentations … persuasion cues abound within a presentation … and you have to be aware that they will scream at the top of their lungs even if you aren’t looking at them.

 

Why do I say that?

 

You can even be silent and be giving a price or value cue.

 

For example.

Bach was a master of ‘negative space’ … building masterful musical combinations … he also used silences that are as eloquent and thought provoking as notes, tempo and syncopation.

<I used Bach because I tend to believe most of us who have built a presentation kind of feel like a composer>.

 

By the way.

 

While you may be thinking I am only discussing big important presentations which have been rehearsed and rehearsed … but this discussion actually pertains to almost any size of any draft or communications.

 

In the end.

Value is kind of like … well … the world and life

 

In fact … it reminds me of something I read:

 

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding the other.

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

Life and business <whether we like to admit it or not> is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial <therefore unique is basically artificial in its inevitable obseletion> where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

Everything has to do with everything else.

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

——–

Arturo Perez Revarte

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res gestae value everything

 

 

That all may be too poetic in discussing something like giving presentations, communications, creating drafts and persuasion … but simply put … “everything has to do with everything else.”

 

Well.

 

 

Communicating is part of everything.

 

outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count

September 13th, 2017

 

vague definition unclear indistinct

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding the other.

 

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

 

Life is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

 

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

 

Everything has to do with everything else.

 

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

 

—–

Arturo Perez Revarte

 

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Vague sucks.

 

outline vague certain uncertaintyAnd, yet, I would argue the majority of people only really have some vague outline of how the world works, or how effective or ineffective a leader is, or even only have a vague outline of any specific relationship between cause & affect.

 

This vaguery exists because it takes a lot of work to parse the details, and the appropriate details, and the ‘right’ details to make the outlines less vague and more tangible.

 

Is this work valuable ? Sure.

 

Is this work necessary to increase some certainty in Life? Sure.

 

But the majority of people have shit to do <other than this type of work>. That is neither good nor bad … it just is what it is.

 

A lot of pseudo intellectuals and smartish pundits bitch & moan and gnash their teeth over this but they would lead a significantly less stressful life if they just accepted it.

 

What this means is that in this ‘vague outline’ people inevitably create a vague/semi solid outline belief. From there they look around on occasion and question that outline. The questions raised either support the vague outline or raise doubts and … well … more questions.

 

All the while this is happening more information barrages the vague outline. In this barrage is a confusing mix of real, fake and quasi truths. All these confusing things do in the people’s minds is, contrary to belief, not confuse but rather make the person more dismissive of the incoming confusion and steadier in whatever vague outline they may have constructed.

 

Once again.

This is neither good nor bad … it just is what it is.

 

A lot of pseudo intellectuals and smartish pundits bitch & moan and gnash their teeth over this but they would lead a significantly less stressful life if they just accepted it.

 

Ah.

 

But at some point the questions gain some gravitas. This can happen several ways but let me point out two:

 

  • The questions themselves coalesce into some easy to understand ‘blob’ from which people who have a vague outline decide … my vague outline is wrong <or sucks>. Let’s say that this is the point at which the doubts and questions begin to outweigh the beliefs that created the vague outline.

 

 

  • Someone weaves a narrative using the doubts & questions into a relatively succinct, believable and non-hyperbolic driven framing of an outline which people look at, scratch their heads, go “hmmmmmmmmm …” and decide this new vague outline will replace the one they had in place. Oh. To be clear. This narrative must not only use the doubts & questions to dissolve the current vague outline but must also offer an alternative vague outline <outlines need to be replaced not simply destroyed>.

 

 

The first never happens fast enough to people who just cannot understand how and why some people have decided to live with some vague outline <that just seems ‘not really a smart outline’ to them>.

 

The second is not as easy as it appears. It isn’t as easy because problems are rarely as clear as we would like them to be and a narrative never lives without the context of all the barrage of real, fake and quasi truths impacting and denting and solidifying a vague outline that already exists. Or someone weaves a  great narrative to destroy but forgets to offer an alternative.

 

In other words … everything has to do with everything else.

 

I imagine I have two points today.

 

 

First.big-decisions-stress-uncertainty

 

We humans have come to accept a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to our lives and our decisions. This uncertainty is also built into the vague outlines we tend to construct for ourselves. What this means is that the construct of our beliefs and thoughts and ideas may be certain to us and, yet, its silhouette accommodates some uncertainty.

 

I began today by unequivocally stating that vague sucks. And I believe 99% of people would agree that it sucks. but in today’s world the majority of people have enough shit to do that they slot their thinking thoughts time. in one slot they place unequivocal certainty type thoughts. In another slot they place the “I will always be uncertain about this shit and thank God there is someone else at some higher pay grade than I who can be certain about it.” and, lastly, we slot all the shit in which we have formed some vague outline which accommodates a certain degree of uncertainty.

 

My point here is we tend to make this a binary discussion where the reality lies in a more complex mix of vagueness & clarity, certainty & uncertainty.

 

Second.

 

uncertainty-principle-here-thereCertainty, in and of itself, has degrees … it is not a simple black or white binary.

 

People can have vague outlines AND have questions with regard to their outlines … and not want to ditch the outline. “How can you still believe that?” may be one of the most misguided and unenlightened questions that has ever existed.  It completely misses the point in that it assumes ignorance, stupidity or some negative trait in order to hold on to some vague outline regardless of doubts.

A vague outline is a choice.

No more and no less.

We question choices all the time and, yet, remain with the original choice despite some fairly extensive doubts.

I say this because that said … it is silly to point out doubts and questions as a reason to ditch a vague outline. My easiest example is President Trump. His followers have a vague outline of what they like and believe about him. We scrutinize them for doubts and questions and when they share them we immediately pounce and suggest “then how can you still believe in your vague outline!?!” <usually said with a slight overall disbelief & wonder>.

Within their lives of doing shit that is important to them they created a vague outline of who and what Trump is, or isn’t, and … well … uncertainty was built into their certainty. The moment they will begin to disbelieve their vague outline is when the uncertainty overpowers the certainty. Until then … we should stop acting confused that someone believes what they believe.

 

Anyway.

 

I love the quote I opened with even though I hate vague. The truth is that we all live with some vague outlines albeit your vague outline may actually be one of my non-vague outlines, and vice versa. And when they are in conflict then … restless spirit fly vaguewell … there is conflict.

 

All that said … while vague sucks there is a reason we do it … and this reason is not stupid, nor unenlightened nor ignorant.

It is just damn practical to have some vague outlines.

 

 

Life is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting.

 

 

Life is restless.

Our vague outlines need to accommodate some of its restlessness. Not recognizing that is either naive or foolish.

 

Paddington goes home

June 29th, 2017

wondering i we could help you paddington

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“In London, everyone is different and that means that anyone can fit in.”

 

—–

Paddington Bear

 

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The great advantage of having a bear as a central character is that he can combine the innocence of a child with the sophistication of an adult. He gets involved in everyday situations. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn’t take kindly to the red tape bureaucracy of the sillier rules and regulations with which we humans surround ourselves.

As a bear he gets away with things. Paddington is humanised, but he couldn’t possibly be ‘human’. It just wouldn’t work.

 

Michael Bond <Paddington author>

 

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Well.

 

paddington collection booksMichael Bond, the Paddington Bear author, died yesterday.

 

First.

 

Michael … thank you for a fabulous contribution to millions of people’s lives.

My sister and I poured through your books as children.

 

 

I still have the original set of Paddington books our parents bought for us and in the first book, A Bear Called Paddington <where the marmalade-loving bear from Peru arrives in London>, you would find a neatly placed label where my sister’s name is written as the owner of the book.

 

Second.

 

To many in this generation Paddington is a charming movie. But it is within the books where children find some of the lessons which bear fruit in growing up and viewing Life.

 

In general … it is a story about fitting in and helping someone fit in … and the struggles that inherently come with this.

 

While Paddington is a refugee … or a likeable harmless immigrant without a home … what child hasn’t found themself looking in the mirror thinking they were different? How many children have found themselves in a new school or a new home or a new neighborhood facing the struggles of what you think you know and what other people think they know? Paddington, as a bear, permitted any child to step into his life and see what he sees.

 

He also taught us we can change not by changing but by seeing things about ourselves or about Life that we have overlooked.

 

He taught us to always polite and well-meaning <always addressing people as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Miss”> but through his simplistic well-meaning ways he is consistently faced with spectacular gaffe after spectacular gaffe within the traditional 1950’s middle class world.paddington paint smiles

 

He also taught us to view Life as if in a mirror to showcase some of the absurdities we place upon ourselves and … well … how we have a nasty habit of making the unimportant important and the truly important often gets overlooked.

 

For example.

When he makes his well-intended errors he finds that ‘very proper persons’ <adults and those in authority positions> tend to glare at him.

What does he do?

He responds with a penetrating, long hard stare of his own <thinking this is the proper response>.

 

Lastly.

 

One of my favorite parts is this:

 

Mary: We can’t just leave him here.

Henry: Of course we can, he’s not our responsibility.

 

Paddington is as much about the people around Paddington as it is about Paddington himself. Time after time in his simplistic slightly bumbling way he reminds people of … well … our general source of humanity.

 

Responsibility for others.

The importance of home.

Friends.

Intentions.

Perspective.

Not all mistakes are created equal.

 

Paddington bear book 1stThe list goes on and on.

 

Within a charming tale about a Peruvian bear in London a child gets glimpses of many things that adults seem to have forgotten.

 

Within this charming tale a child learns some of the little lessons parents forget to tell you when you are growing up.

 

Within this charming tale adults, like me, can pull a well-worn book off the shelf and be reminded that a good heart and good intentions can defeat the most established stuffy rules adulthood can often, quite absurdly, place upon all of us.

 

RIP Mr. Bond. Paddington finally found his home.

Enlightened Conflict