Saturday, December 31, 2011

We think therefore we are

'I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else.I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.' -Ken Venturi.

Isn’t that a good manifesto ? The whole idea is we must push our abilities beyond our own imagination possible.  Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field carried a positive  resonance to it when his engineering team had performed beyond their abilities. On the other hand, self deception or delusion carries a negative connotation. So when is a reality distortion not a denial and  how does  one put things in the right perspective?  How do we keep our reality in check? How do we know we are not deceiving ourselves into believing that we are doing fine ?  For those of us who strive to better ourselves, how do we keep a score card of our virtues and wrongs?  If we think we want to do something with our lives, how do we know if we are progressing on the right track?

We tend to agonize and brood about what has gone wrong. We must know that it is a waste of our energy by beating ourselves up for things we cannot change. “Should have” is such a meaningless phrase but how often we say that? When we are caught in a traffic jam, we kick ourselves for taking the wrong route, when we make a bad purchase, we invariably feel that we have made the wrong choice and when we sign up for a deal and a better one comes along, we wish we could have deliberated more and widen our search and consider more offers or promotions, the list goes on. We want to get ahead and maybe in the name of beating the system, we want to come out the winner. We get frustrated and become upset when our plans go astray or that things do not get done the way we want them to be done. If only we could just tell ourselves not to be too wound up and look at the bright side.  How about all the other times when things go splendidly, must we congratulate ourselves for making the right choices? I think not. There is no reason to gloat if we succeed and likewise wallow about all the “should haves or should have not” if we do not succeed. Ideally that is the case, I think.

Maybe we tend to place too much significance on the importance of being smart and being in control and ahead of others are part of the scheme of being smart thus we are only intent on making smart moves. I get my adrenalin all pumped up when I focus on a project as I find that it is only fun if  I immerse myself fully in a task. Striving on the right amount of stress can be fun but sometimes the challenge can get too oppressive that it is no longer enjoyable. Such occasions usually arise when I pay too much attention to the end result and not the process of executing the task. Whenever I play a game of tennis, I find myself hitting better if I only look at the ball and concentrate on hitting and not care too much about the score. A friend recently shared with me something she has learnt in her tennis game. Since tennis is a mind game, it is a tactical move to step up from the baseline when your opponent fails to execute his or her first serve. The reason is that the opponent may feel affected by your response and can become offended that you anticipate a weak serve. In his or her zealous attempt to prove you wrong , he or she may end up with a double fault.

Our minds can play tricks on us so how do we know if we are not deceiving ourselves or that we are in denial? It is a matter of  finding a balance  between humility and self-possession that gives us just the right amount of confidence to carry on doing what we have been doing and whatever we plan to do. We must believe what our minds are telling us otherwise we can become uncertain. Ultimately we should stick to whatever works. Each and everyone of us will have to find out what works   and  what  not for each one of us.

On Friday before we headed home, my office partner and I had a drink at the Pacific Coffee Company outlet located at a new shopping mall. The  thought for the day that was on display at  the Pacific Coffee Company store was a quote by Louis L’Amour: A wise man fights to win, but he is twice a fool who has no plan for possible defeat.

Bingo! Now I have another quote which seems to fit in nicely with what I have started writing this week. For every venture, we must know that we may have to be prepared for defeat. When one has dreams and high expectations, one can  be motivated to persevere with a view to succeed. However it is wise to anticipate disappointments. In exercising my professional duty, I often advise clients the possibility of a defeat as clients must know that in litigation, there will be a winner and a loser. Of course, clients should have realistic expectations of the outcome of a legal battle that they have chosen to be engaged in and must be prepared to face the consequences should they fail. That is often a difficult concept to drive home to a particularly hard core litigant or an obstinate client. 

My family decided to watch The Nutcracker the movie after an early dinner on New Year's Eve. Apparently the movie did not gain popularity as it did not appeal to the children nor the adults. I thought the cinematography and graphic were delightful even though it was not spectacular. Perhaps the Nutcracker story was not intended for children and the adults are too cynical to enjoy the story. Maybe life could be magical like the Nutcracker Story and that dreams could become reality. Does that sound like a good wish? I think it does. Meilleurs vœux!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reality Distortion

When I read  “Steve Jobs” the biography written by Walter Isaacson, I became extremely fascinated by the term  “Distortion of Reality”, the phrase coined and intended for the visionary and icon, the late Steve Jobs who might not  have possessed  the best interpersonal management skills but all that was compensated by his ability to take art and  technology to the level which  his team would not have attained without his resolve and vision.

Steve has a reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules,” said  the former Apple software engineer Bud Tribble who had adopted the  term  “reality distortion field” from "The Menagerie" episodes in Star Trek series to describe the phenomenon with Steve Jobs.

"The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand," said Andy Hertzfeld a fellow Macintosh team member . "Amazingly, the reality distortion field seemed to be effective, even if you were acutely aware of it. We would often discuss potential techniques for grounding it, but after a while most of us gave up, accepting it as a force of nature."

So often we talk about  how one must be realistic in one’s expectation and knows one’s limitations. Here is an icon  in every sense of the word believes that “Nothing is impossible” and pushed his team ahead and accomplish what they had thought was impossible and arrive at what they eventually produced. However the reality distortion field concept could inspire and challenge the individual into doing what he or she would not have thought possible thus bringing about positive advancement and innovation; it could also trick people into believing something that is completely untrue , in other words,  a lie  in which case  might  possibly bring about disastrous results that would not be of use and may even be destructive. We therefore must be aware that the power of our minds are capable of distorting reality in more than one way . At the end of the day it is with conviction and determination that one will triumph .

Art has been an area where one can freely express one’s perception of life and happenings around the world. As the saying goes: “ Life imitating art or art imitating life”. It is  commonly understood that the film makers produce movies which are in many ways reality distortions. I remember being told by a classmate that her strict dad would never allow her to go to the cinema and apparently he said, “ the moviemakers are mad and the movie goers are idiots.” Perhaps he wanted his daughter to stay grounded and not be influenced by what is depicted by the script writers after all life does not end like a movie script . Maybe he did not want his daughter to have misconceptions about life or distorted views of the reality. He must have thought that cinema was a mode of reality distortion.We were in primary school  and even then I felt that it was unthinkable to be deprived of movie going. As a child, I used to look forward to family outings to the cinemas and I would be in tears when my parents and I  could not  catch a movie as the tickets had been sold out.  It might sound trivial and me appearing spoilt that I should sulk when our movie trip was cancelled. I grew up watching movies and love the cinemas; movies take you places visually and emotionally and an enjoyable social outing. Movies and fictions serve our palates for fantasies and fantasies rarely become reality although some of the images and scenes presented by the film maker could bear some resemblance to real life and our experiences. But what my schoolfriend’s dad must have meant was : Movies are illusions and he did not want his daughter to be deluded or have a false perceptions of what reality was.

In films, the morality line may be blurred or re-invented. That is why we have rating for the movies so that the individual can take responsibility for what his or her child can watch.  In the world of cinema, lots of stuff are not factual and for artistic and creative purposes, even official history may be changed to suit the design and ideas of the movie directors and sentiments of the respective scripts. We watch films not in search of the truth, we sometimes watch films to escape from reality and be amused or find humour in the absurdities about life while at other times we hope to be inspired.  Bearing that in mind, why was my friend’s dad so adamant and insistent that  those who watch films were fools? Guess it is not easy to be a parent, you have no idea when a child can distinguish what is real and what is not. Video games are popular and can be addictive. I have heard about real people who find their “soul mates’ through playing computer games and getting to know each other through the characters they were playing as. Perhaps my school friend’s dad did have a point after all. We  cannot be guilty of  indulging in a little imagination  but sometimes the sheer mental force can  carry our minds so far out that the thin line between what is real and what is not  real somehow is displaced.