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Pattern Recognition and the Elusive Life/Work Balance SPEECH: RESOLUTIONS, Orlando 02.05

THERE’S AN INTERESTING BOOK CALLED PATTERN RECOGNITION, just a piece of fiction, science fiction, by William Gibson. I’m an avid fiction reader, don’t like self-help books, can’t do too much non-fiction on my time off. When it comes time to choose, I choose fantasy.

Pattern Recognition. Just the title alone is fascinating to me.

If I had to stand in front of you today and wastebasket my whole speech… and you handed me just these two words and said talk about this, I would be happy.

Keep these two words in your mind as you listen to what I see.

I see planets, stars, galaxies in the heavens. I see snowflakes. I see bubbles and bubble structures. I see equations. I see families, body structures, faces. I see fingers, I see toes. I see all babies everywhere. I see political systems. I see religions. I think about an essay on the short stories of Faulkner or Joyce.

I see similarity; I see variety. I see a hundred subjects where pattern recognition could be simple or complex–easy to grasp or difficult to recognize.

This is how our minds race, how they travel over possibilities and connections. For me, this is one of the attributes that allows me to do my job in this professional arena better than the guy on the street corner, the man behind the counter. This is what keeps me going, this is what keeps my mind tearing a path across the universe, this is why I survive, and this is what keeps me young.

And you (as a very different individual) have a thousand other images of what this could be about and all this before I tell you about the book.

Back to the book–in case you think I forgot to tell you what it is about: PATTERN RECOGNITION. The heroine is a trend chaser. She is in my industry and essentially a branding consultant. She studies trends all over the world and renders opinions about what will work, what will have resonance with the people, the product or service and its message. I like this book, because….that’s what we are at Brandt Ronat + Co.

It is our job to recognize patterns, and how they work. It is our job to recognize when a pattern is breaking up…and why.

It is our glorious job to observe, absorb and spit out a message, a response, a next step that resonates with the audience to get a reaction and create change, momentum or other actions. How cool is that?

Pattern Recognition, the book and the activity, reminds me to welcome change, examine change, understand change

Example: Recently, I became a grandmother, my first grandchild. The implication is since I have a grandchild, I have a child, and therefore that perhaps I raised children, that I know how to do it, and that hopefully I might be a source of solid info for the young parents, my son and his wife.
But…I found out I don’t know as much as I though about raising babies.

When my children were small, we fed cereal at about 6 weeks of age, now information indicates that wheat gluten fed before 7 months of age makes children more prone to certain kinds of allergies.

So when I was saying to myself why in the world aren’t those kids feeding Matthew cereal yet? I was way back there on the learning curve. My info was obsolete.

Matthew has the most amazing parents. They have read, researched, listened to others and to their own counsel and are raising a peaceful, non-bawling, sleeping, learning human being. Ok, some luck of personality. But the main thing is….they are learning every day and adjusting their info and their response to it.

That is what we have to do every day in analyzing business communications challenges. That my friends is what keeps you “young”, relevant, meaningful, engaged, challenged, proud, able to go on, wanting to go on.

Change, not just being able to change, but wanting to change, is one of the secrets of life and business. Period. Learn how. Do it well. Learn how to let go and flow forward.

Wow…things have changed. How much?
Medical info is such today that what you knew even 10 years ago is obsolete. It is said medical info is going to double every 4 years. If that is so, then pharmacists, doctors, all of us, have to change, have to know how to change, have to know how to learn.

Once upon a time, just a couple of generations ago, you probably knew your job and you did it for 20-30-40 years. You were expert, you were depended on for the absolutes in answers, in process; you were the solid source. But things are moving differently now. Today, every day, in my firm, we absorb change, we get new input, new ideas, new paths open up. And to succeed as a group, each of us seeks to know some area well. And each of us faces the danger of falling behind, but of course, we hold each other up. We introduce each other to the industry trends, the pop culture shifts, the behavioral nuances in subsets of age or urban or ethnic differences. We read, we listen, we taste as much as we can and we grow as a group, not just as individuals.

Here is one of the secrets to success for the young career people reading this: Don’t ask for a raise, or different job responsibilities. Most managers at my level are very aware, pretty smart….some aren’t, but many of you work with very amazing people. So use that. Grow. Grow yourself. Many of these amazing people are going to notice if you are really growing, not just talking about it. But these same people aren’t going to hold your hand while you whine about what you want and don’t have. Change yourself; change your job by going out and learning something new, something valuable. Make yourself ready

This represents, for some people, a sea change in thinking. If you cannot hear this, the difference between you growing and whining to grow, you need to get a grip and look (no, I’m not going to say within yourself) not within, but without….at the world. Take a chunk of it, grab, read, read, read, I don’t care if online or in the newspaper, read, read, read. Listen, listen, listen. Eat, taste, talk, think. You are what you eat. Eat a lot.

At night, after a long day, of too many emails, too many demands and too many answers, I sit down on the sofa with the TV on something I don’t have to concentrate on and .mess with some materials. Often I am cutting, pasting, tearing, looking at things differently….making little books, often nonsensical I suppose trying not to impose the rules that order the rest of my life.

I am trying to be free; I want to make things that don’t have demands.

I want to make things like what used to be called OUTSIDER ART…..folk art, primitive art, it has lots of names, depending on who you talk to, but I like the phrase OUTSIDER ART best because it describes what I like best about it. OUTSIDER ART is outside the rules; more than that, it is outside the knowledge. It does not, cannot try to be hip, because it does not know what hip is. There is the key. It does not copy, but if it does, it copies because it loves what it copied and learned something from that original and therefore there is a legitimate reason for copying and that copying becomes part of what it is.

But INSIDERS know too much, and they can’t get free to take from this and take from that legitimately. Instead, pride and acknowledgment and other things get in the way of freedom to create.

In our business, this is a real danger.

On one hand we had better know what the new techniques and trends are that are driving TV production….or the new status of product positioning and the use of v-bots or avatars or advergaming. We had better know how Japanese in-game characters have influenced what we see in cartoons on the Cartoon Network or the illustrative style that is attributed to it. But to the soul within us, the soul of creation, these are bad things. These are good things to do our jobs and understand the marketplace we work in….but these are hard things to put away to get back to that which feeds our innate passions and innate sensibilities and therefore our abilities to do what we do every day, within the limitations of our very professional very sophisticated demands.

This is a dichotomy of creativity. And to remain strong and free, you have to find a way to work both sides of the fence.

I’ll tell you more about my little drawn, cut, pasted books. Sometimes they are just awful. Or so I think. I look at them and say, there’s no order, there’s no simplicity, there’s nothing I can hang on to here that themes through this….I can’t recognize a PATTERN.

Well…maybe there is a “pattern,” maybe there isn’t. Maybe they have content secrets I have not unlocked yet, lessons for my soul, for me. Maybe not, maybe they were just the things I did with my hands so my head could do something else; solve something else, on another day or maybe in that minute.

The trouble is that I continue to long for a pattern, or get upset if it doesn’t seem to “come together” immediately to some 95th percentile arbitrary level of “getting there”

So while I am not free of my insidious editorializing of everything I make, and never will be I fear, still I am making something–sometimes good things; and all of it I think is relevant to who I am and….WHAT I CAN DO, how I see, how I solve, how I go on …. and on and on.

I am a good example of survive and thrive, but I am not a good example of someone living “in balance.” I wish I could be that person for you. But instead, I can only be someone who is HAPPY with her choices.

That I can talk about….but it won’t paint a picture of the perfectly segmented life, the person with the time for writing her novel, or the person who is home by 6 pm. You are looking at an addicted personality. I am a workaholic. I am an emailaholic. I am an “improvements” fanatic. These are some of my best features.

For me it is not, I believe, harmful. For me, it has been energy giving, infusing, life force stuff…I am inexorably, deeply involved in my work.

I have been like this since I graduated from college, no before…in college, younger…I am an A student, I like it. I want to make good things. I want to make sense. I want to look over my accomplishments and be proud. I want them to keep becoming more valuable solutions. I want to be consulted. I want to be able to provide paths of value for my clients, organizations, industry niche businesses. I want to help organizations differentiate. I want to see it work. I want to see folks responding to what we do.

I want to work. Because only by doing the work can you create the message, net the value, start the evolution, revolution. For those of you looking to work less and find time away from thoughts of your roles in your career, your jobs, your professional commitments…. Hmmmm, you’re in the wrong room. If you want to hear about how someone who works very hard every day can be happy for so many years doing this kind of thing, you’re in the right room.

I had a class reunion. Many folks in the room were “retired”….that was a big shock to me. I may mention the word in passing or as a joke, but I never seriously consider that it is something that relates to me, something I should maybe think about. Yikes. It sounds awful. Do I want to travel? Yes, but that is just time off. Do I want to drop some of my old duties on other shoulders? Yes, but that is because I’m bored with that and need to move on. Do I want to see others take over some of my roles? Yes, because they can and should get to. But stop? Pllllease. You are not talking my language.

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