Bill Morefield My thoughts, discoveries, and occasional rambiings.

December 30, 2011

Balancing Rest and Motion

Filed under: development — Tags: — Bill Morefield @ 1:15 pm

Saw a post on gapingvoid simply titled “Now What.”  I think it’s a good question to ask yourself every so often.  Something about the end of the year invites this type of reflection. You’re only one day older on January 1 than you were on December 31 just as you’re only one day older on your birthday than you were the day before. Though arbitrary, the change from one year to another feels significant. Maybe it’s the increased interactions with friends and family during the holiday season. Maybe it’s the shift back to normal life after the hectic rush of the rest of December.

I’ve heard, “this year has flown by,” so many times in the last couple months that I’ve lost count. I’ve normally nodded my head and agreed, but in truth this felt like a very long year for me. Not always in a bad way as I’ve had some wonderful and amazing experiences this year, but more than once challenges in my personal or professional life made me aware of every passing moment while waiting for a shoe that didn’t drop or didn’t land where I’d hoped. I’ve faced as much disappointment as joy this year, which has been a change for me.

Around this time last year I became aware of several things I did not like about my life. So like any good modern self-improvement minded person, I set about changing them. We all make resolutions that mostly fall by the wayside, but mine began quite well. I established new patterns in eating and exercise and for the first time I started winning the fight with my weight. With those early successes I began looking at other areas in my life and working to “fix” the problems I saw.

February and March both brought shocks to my life, one suspected and the other completely out of the blue. The first brought pain and the second brought happiness along with heartbreak.  As I moved into summer, I became fixated on the improvement. I wanted to fix everything in my life. I threw myself into everything that seemed wrong and worked on making it right.

It seemed a great idea at the time.

In truth there have been some wonderful results of this process. I’ve dropped my weight from peak near 300 pounds to nearer 240. I’m fitting into suits I bought for my interviews while a senior in college. I’m buying new clothes because I need something smaller for the first time in my life. I fully expect that by the time late spring rolls around I’ll be rather close to my “idea” weight probably for the first time since I was a freshman in college.

There are other things of course. I’ve rebuilt social ties and friendships I’d let lapse. I again found the joy in experimenting and trying new things. I developed a new good friendship. I’ve improved the skills in my photography hobby to the point I actually wrote an eBook on my niche. I’ve even sold a few copies.

The mistake came as I stopped enjoying where I was. I became so focused on the process of improving and where I wanted to go, I stopped enjoying where I was. Perhaps I’d been unhappy with my state for a while as the shift came subtly. I never noticed. I realized I was unhappy, but not why. Of course I was unhappy with some things that I wanted to change, but I stopped noticing the wonderful people and experiences in my life. I was like the driver so focused on getting to a meeting on time and complaining about the traffic, he misses the beautiful sunset.

By fall it had become obvious something was amiss. A Buddhist proverb reads something like, “When the student is ready, the master appears.” I didn’t find a single master to provide the answers. I got snippets here in and there, and then I had a wonderful, deep conversation with a good friend one October afternoon. She said the exact words that I needed to hear. It took a couple days to really sink in, but that was the “Aha!” moment. I found other things that provided direction. I particularly recommend The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom  which is a wonderful blend of religious thought, philosophy, and brain science.

It wasn’t an overnight change, and it took me a couple weeks to realize I’d turned that corner. Since that day I’ve enjoyed life more, maybe more than in several years. I’ve learned to live in the moment, savor the small moments in life, to enjoy the flow of my senses coming in. When I’m eating, I enjoy the flavor and texture of my food instead of throwing it down. When I’m with friends, I enjoy the conversation and belonging and don’t worry about what I’m going to say or what we’re going to do. When I’m doing other things, I enjoy them fully and completely.

I still make goals and plans. I still have things I want to pursue. For getting lost along the way, I did still reach many of my destinations. The change is that now while I still am heading somewhere, I’m enjoying the drive along the way.

November 23, 2011

Why Social Networks Aren’t Yet

Filed under: social networks — Tags: , , , , — Bill Morefield @ 6:00 pm

I’ve been thinking about online social networks more than normal for the last few weeks. The truth is that I don’t do a lot on most general social networks right now. I generally read Facebook about once a day, but post maybe once a month. I read Twitter a few times a day, but post maybe once a week. Other social networks such as LinkedIn and Google+ to more specialized ones such as Instagram I visit irregularly at best.

In fact the social network I visit and use the most often is Model Mayhem, a site devoted to connecting people in photography. I think the reason I go there more often, other than the site is how I find most people I work with, is the focus of the site on a single set of relationships. I know intuitively how to use it and work with it. I go there for a purpose, interact as needed, and leave.

On LinkedIn a couple weeks ago I had a connection request from a model that I’ve worked with a couple times in photo projects. After accepting I noticed that my connections on LinkedIn consist of a mix of friends, photographic collaborators like her, vendors I’ve worked with on projects, and co-workers. They are a diverse group. The same thing is the case with Facebook adding friends and people I went to high school with to the previous list.

I think that’s the biggest problem with most social network sites. They really do a poor job of mapping to my real social network. In the last couple months I’ve served in the role of friend, lover, co-worker, manager, employee, consultant, photographer, and student along with others I’m sure I’m forgetting at different times. None of the sites really deal with these varied roles. The intricate multitude of human interactions do not easily map to simple terms like friend or follower or connection. This makes the interactions feel a bit more difficult than they should be. Most of my photography connections don’t really care that I’m with friends at a restaurant, but those that are also friends might want to join us. My co-workers probably wouldn’t care that I’d had a model cancel a shoot and need a replacement, but those photography connections would if available. Then there are the people whose thoughts I want to know either because they entertain or enlighten, but I have no interest in what they’re having for dinner tonight.

To me no site handles this well. I maintain two twitter accounts, one for “me” that covers most of my roles and a second that covers the photographer role. As mentioned my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are a mix of people I connect with in these diverse roles. I think one reason I post to these two less is that I’m often not sure if I want to “bother” all of these people with messages meant for only a subset of them.

In addition my roles overlap and shift even during the course of a day and more so over weeks and months. Someone I meet for a photo shoot last year is a friend today. A woman I met late this summer moved from friend to lover, back to friend, and then out of my life over a few months. The complexities of these relationships do not match well to simple terms like friend or follower on Facebook or Twitter. The concept of Circles on Google+ perhaps comes closer to acknowledging these differences but still feels a bit off. My true social network lies in none of these sites. It occurs face to face, in phone calls, text messages, and emails. Those are the ones that feel right, natural, and simple.

I think we’re at the point with social networks that we were in Internet search before Google arrived. The best and most popular search site then was AltaVista. Everyone used it and it provided the best results. We liked it because while it was inconsistent and buggy it did a job we wanted by helping us find what we wanted on the Internet most of the time. Sure you might not get the best result, but you got a good result more often than not. Suddenly Google arrived and you started getting the best results almost all the time and Altavista faded.

Right now I think Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the others are like those search engines before Google. They solve a real need we have, the basic human urge to connect and interact with others. Our desire to feel part of a group and Right now Facebook probably does it the best and is to social what Altavista was to search. Something is off though. In search the big idea was that the number of other sites that linked to a site told you something about how good a site was. I think in social it will be some way to almost transparently deal with the complexity of real relationships. I don’t know who will do it or how they will do it.  I think whoever does, whether an existing or new site, will finally be the social network I really use.

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving to all.

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