Sunday, February 9, 2014

Moving Blog

Hello Friends and family! I am officially moving to in an effort to more succinctly store and share ideas, information, projects, and data that I come across and/or produce.

Thanks for your support and conversation during the life of The Relevant Classroom. I have really enjoyed it!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recently Reviewed Business-ish Books

Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer ServiceRaving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service by Kenneth H. Blanchard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this short and to-the-point analogy of what it means to provide excellent customer service. I fully agree with Blanchard that today's society expects terrible service, I know I do. Why is this? Though I have little practical experience to back it up, I believe that the 3 steps given in this book could be revolutionary to a company, or any kind of organization. Everything comes down to a human to human concern, and everything else is just excess.

The three steps are:
1- Decide what you want; create a vision of perfection
2- Discover what the costumer wants; 'fine' and silence could be bad
3- Deliver plus one; grow 1% a week consistently and flexibly

I love the simplicity and clarity of these steps, though it seems things can easily get more hairy once actually in the driver's seat of an organization.

After reading this I wondered: am I a "raving fan" of any business or organization? At the time I did't think so, but since then I went to Stewart's Automotive in Tulsa. And NOW I am a raving fan! So check this out, I will only go to Stewart's now for any auto need I have. I don't care if someone says they will do it cheaper, I don't care that it isn't very close to my apartment, heck - I am advertising for them! So yes, I think it is safe to say I am a raving fan.

The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinaryThe Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary by Mark Sanborn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Fred Factor has some good motivational content in it, but I found it overly repetitive and strangely organized. My main take away includes: create extra value by doing more than is necessary and exceeding expectations, solve a problem you didn't create, serve others for the sake of service, and be just a really good human being.

This is a quick read, and I think the message has the ability to really impact people - if acted upon. I hope I can be a little better, and do a little more to incorporate the principles in this book and become a Fred myself.

Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for SuccessSpringboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by G. Richard Shell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this was a good book, and offered some unique perspectives on the science of success. It is particularly helpful at this time in my life as I am at the very beginning of my professional life and trying to figure out what I will do to find success in my own way. Some things I want to remember:

I was "the stonemason" which Shell says means that "craftsmanship and family" are the most important factors when it comes to defining success. "Success is measured by creating your work, completing defined tasks to the best of your ability, and devotion to your family."

The story of the man walking into a long-winded presentation on happiness and he says, "all you need is good health, meaningful work, and love." This reminded me of "Flow" and the importance of complex tasks that match a certain level of skill - but also the required elements connected to an individual's personality.

I like the lotto exercise: what would you do if you won 100 million dollars and that is after you have done everything to ensure your family's financial security and future? The answer to that should help in deciding what you want to do. What would I do? Mmm, I don't know! Maybe set up my own small production company that would make thoughtful films, but this be on the side as I would be doing other things - like what? I am not sure. Hopefully I will discover that soon.

Think PERFECT when looking at job positions, and kinds of careers.
P - personal growth and development
E - Entrepreneurial independence (Dan Pink's autonomy, mastery and purpose)
R - Religious or spiritual identity (the best reason to try and go work at BYU)
F - Family
E - Expressing yourself through ideas, invention, or the arts
C - Community - serving a cause, helping people in need
T - Talent-based striving for excellence

Google "Meaningful Work Venn Diagram" - that thing is important when reflecting on kinds of jobs. I think I can write pretty well if I put my mind to it. My best way of thinking is abstract and theoretical. I enjoy reading and processing information. Perhaps I would be a good professor? Maybe I would be better in a research job with a think-tank? I don't know.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Flow and New Horizons

Since my exit from TFA and the world of elementary education, I have had lots of time to reflect and consider the new horizons that lay before us. 

In what my wife and I consider to be miraculous fashion, I was hired by Community Care College as a videographer to make media content for that college, as well as Clary Sage College and Oklahoma Technical College.  In this position I get to back movies, full time. Wahoo! 

My job is called "media assistant" and I am a member of the marketing department. This placement is unique and exciting to me because while I get to use skills I developed as a film student at BYU, I am also in an educational environment that is completely new to me. Initially when I learned that Community Care is a for-profit organization I felt slightly repulsed. However, in the short time I have been here my mind has been opened to the impact and quality of education a group of highly thoughtful and good people can bring about. 

As I have been reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience I realized that one reason I love my new job is it enables me to have meaningful work to do, that requires complex skills at an increasing rate. I am not overwhelmed, and neither am I bored - I am experiencing the "Goldilocks Effect" as Dan Pink calls it. My task is "just right". Time flies as I plan, shoot, and edit projects. I get immense pleasure from struggling with the unique challenges each project gives me. The good news is, I have the skill to engage with these challenges. I feel that is why I suffered so much as a teacher: my skill level was obliterated by the sheer challenges and complexity of effective instruction, causing me severe psychic entropy. 

Anyway, here is the first project I made in my new position. 

Beyond being allowed to enjoy lots of time "in flow" at my job, I am also overjoyed by the fact that work ends at 5 p.m. and then I go home and have time to spend with my family and improve myself in new ways. Recently I decided I want to improve art skills. I have drawn seriously since I was a kid, and I only stopped because I believed I wasn't as good as I should be if I was serious with drawing. 

So each evening I spend some time watching instructors on YouTube and am finding an immense source of flow doing that. I have uploaded a few of my drawings below. 

As I have been drawing, I occasionally think to myself, "Why am I doing this? What good can come out of this? It isn't like I am hoping to get a job as an illustrator or animator or anything!" But then I remember the sentiment and lesson expressed from Flow.
"Amateur and Dilettante . . . Nowadays these labels are slightly derogatory. An amateur or a dilettante is someone not quite up to par, a person not to be taken very seriously, one whose performance falls short of professional standards. But originally, "amateur," from the Latin verb amare, "to love," referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly a "dilettante," from the Latin delectare, "to find delight in," was someone who enjoyed a given activity. The earliest meanings for these words therefore drew attention to experiences rather than accomplishments; they described the subjective rewards individuals gained from doing things, instead of focusing on how well they were achieving." 
Though I still consider myself an amateur filmmaker (and artist in general), there is no reason for me to allow that fact to rob any sense of enjoyment from the process of creation. 

Perhaps my favorite section in the book is called "The Waste of Free Time." This section isn't about cramming your life full of activities and events, rather it is about how often Americans "fill" free time with activities that are utterly draining and mind-numbing.
"Hobbies that demand skill, habits that set goals and limits, personal interests, and especially inner discipline help to make leisure what it is supposed to be - a chance for re-creation. . . instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend man  hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we go to admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. WE do not run risk acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action." 
Kas and I do watch Downton Abbey and Sherlock, but apart from that I am really trying to embrace new hobbies or activities that will challenge me to improve myself - and use the faculties I have been blessed with. Said C K Brightbill (and quoted in Flow),"The future will belong not only to the educated man, but the man who is educated to use his leisure wisely."