Cycle

Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me for how I feel about my job. I know I have a good job (better than any ‘regular’ job I’ve had) that is varied, I’m good at, and has many perks. I’d say it’s a million times better than the full time job I had before this one. The next one I land through working hard at this one will probably be even better. Still, I spend every day at it wishing I wasn’t here doing this.

Is it like this for all artists? Are we all doomed to feel like we’re not doing ‘real work’ when we’re doing something other than our art? I look at other people that are amazing and talented who have ‘regular jobs’ and consider their job their actual job and not just their day job. I can’t help but be a bit jealous. Also, I feel like their advice is always, “find a different job” as if the issue is this job I have, and working for another company or in a different position would make this feeling go away. I know at least some other artists ‘get it’, but I also feel like they’ve all either taken the leap into art full time or have found a better balance (or are closer to it).

I envy them, but I also don’t, because I know in most cases it comes at great sacrifice to some very basic things (money, healthcare, food, etc.). I try to think of all the people that have even less fulfilling jobs than me, or are having a hard time getting a job or one that pays enough to put towards their bills. I feel guilty for not being more satisfied with what I have, and I feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’ or ‘the right thing’ (whatever those are) to change things for the better with immediate results.

Every weekend I try my best to forget about this for two days, and every Monday, this feeling follows me out of bed and through every thing I do. I try to ignore the undertone of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and hopelessness enough to get through the work day, make it to my studio, and spend the small amount of time and energy left on what I feel is my real work.

I do it knowing it’s probably not enough to realize any of my goals. I try not to be sad. I hope that if I keep at it, all of the little bits of time I can spare will add up into great things and somehow get me out of this cycle.

Falling on Your Face

There’s such a thing as being too realistic.

Being too realistic is another way of saying don’t try for the sublime, leave your dreams at the door, and settle for mediocrity.

What’s the worst that will happen if you reach too far? It’s not so dramatic as falling off a cliff, but maybe it’s still as painful as falling on your face. Isn’t that okay?

I’m not so happy sitting down. I’d rather reach. I’m happier when I’m reaching. Even if in some ways it ends up a failure, I still do amazing things on the way. The act of trying itself is a success, never mind all of the other good things that will come of it. We learn, and we can try again.

I’m not saying I want to fall on my face. I’m not going to try for failure. I’m going to reach and do everything to come out of it still standing. I am, however, okay falling on my face. I’m promising myself that I will just get up and brush myself off.

Connections Crossing

Life: the waking dream that hazes between points of rest. Each moment is taking place in an external world that my inner world just made up based on that same external world made up by everyones’ own inner world. I dream so vivid that times asleep become more real than the day to day.

I keep searching for truth and on the way I often fancy the notion I’ve found some. We make our own truth and it only becomes more and more apparent as we trust what our senses tell us. Our senses hear what others chose to feed us. Even as we accept it as reality, we know that deep down we’re victims of everyone’s filter, especially our own. We experience a reflection of a reflection spiraling off into eternity, so we may as well be blind.

I’m bound to this world the same as everyone else. Sometimes I get notions of how really lost and alone we all are as a whole who shares the same wants. Humanity, the race of contradictions, struggles to see behind the masks of one another. When I look at you, I try to see past our posturing and learned responses.

Connection crosses us so easily and is severed with the slightest touch. As we’re all seeking it as savagely as we pull away from one another, it’s a wonder we survive.

Just Being – Stillness & Motion

Lufia 2: Swell of humanity
This post’s screen shot is from Lufia 2 (SNES). I’m sure there was an elegantly put metaphor in Japanese, but there is no such luck here.

Do you ever get a sense that nothing you ever do is the result of purely what you want to do for yourself? Even if you think you’re doing something for yourself, it is always weighed down by its relationship to other people. The things we do are controlled by a set of standards that are not exclusively our own. Ideas of ‘normalcy’ and ‘supposed to’ are so second nature, we don’t even consider them as we fall into line.

Part of the normalcy we need to feel is useful. The idea of being useful is pretty ambiguous, but it seems like most of our existence is based on it. It’s a constant pressure and motivator. I once wrote that I should ‘be content with being the being who strives’, but what about being content with just plain being oneself and nothing else?

I don’t think I’ll ever be content to be still. Stillness becomes guilt at not being busy, which is not stillness at all. Being busy doesn’t even mean actually doing anything truly important, it means being in a constant state of doing or even active procrastination. Relevance is secondary to making sure you’re active. Being in motion, even if you’re not getting any important done, becomes more important and valuable that being still. But, it isn’t.

For one’s own health and well being- and to have the ability to accomplish really important things- one must have periods of stillness, self, and relaxation. The mind needs a break to reflect and remember what is important and real in the largest scope possible. I’m not talking about some “in 5 years where do you see yourself’ question, but reflecting upon the question of why existing itself is important and necessary. I’ve never had a complete answer to that and probably never will, but each time I think I further understand a piece of that why, life becomes better, easier, and stronger in its vibrancy.

Being. Actually being, with a real identity and purpose, is far more important than being busy.

It can be very hard to force oneself to be still.

Interviewing: The Real Life RTS Game

I’ve been doing this interview song and dance, and it’s an odd game. You think ET for the Atari 2600 was bad, or Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 for that matter, but this is right up there only with better graphics.

Geek translation: it is hard, not because you are not skilled at video games (or the job you are interviewing for), but because the process itself doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense.

I’ve been corresponding a bit with Rory on this subject matter, asking advice, which is a bit ironic considering he’s currently unemployed. However, he’s had some really great things to say that have made me a bit less nervous about interviewing and answered some of my WTF questions.

It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!
I wanted to share some of the wisdom he’s given me, passing along wisdom to you like the old man in the cave in Zelda giving Link his sword. He gives great advice, telling you not to go alone, and giving you a sword. Link, now sharing the company of a sword that shoots lasers, is better equipped to deal with the issues.

Do not go alone. Allow me to arm you with a laser shooting sword. It will be like carrying Rory with you, only not literally. I mean, technically you’ll still be walking in there and facing moblins and octorocks all alone, but it’s a metaphor you see (not a bad translation of a video game developed in Japan).

This is super applicable since Rory has been poking at readers to apply for a job at Microsoft, working for the JeffSand team.
 
So, below you will find some excerpts of emailed advice I edited together. Enjoy!

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Technology Job Interviews: The Real Life RTS
as told by Rory Blyth, edited by Cindy Chiuchiolo
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PART A – Sure, certify, but don’t look like a jerk.
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Get a few certifications – not tons, as it’ll make it look like:
 
1. You’re trying too hard
 
2. You’ve been out of work so long that you’ve had time to get every certification in the book
 
I used to consult for hiring managers, and I was always suspicious of the people who had tons of certifications. In my mind it translated to “No real world experience.”
 
Experience + A few certifications = always good.

 
– – – – –
PART B – Don’t be too cool for school.
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Attending courses and seminars is important. The best way to make connections and find work is to sleaze your way into an extensive network.

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PART C – Pwn. Don’t be pwned.
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If you don’t feel comfortable, then treat it like a game. It really is a game, anyway. You’re playing an RTS (Real Time Strategy). Your goal is to amass as many resources as possible so you can stomp all over your enemy. Your enemy is, of course, your potential employer. Your employer is not your friend. Your employer will try to get as much work for as little pay out of you as possible.
 
Except…
 
…when you’ve successfully sold yourself.
 
If you get an interview, then walk in with confidence bordering on hubris. Demand pay that’s well above what:
 
1. They want to give you
 
2. What your experience dictates
 
Demanding more makes them want you more. You won’t get what you demand, but you’ll get more than they would have given you otherwise. You also suddenly look more appealing than the other applicants because you have confidence, can back it up, and will stand your ground when they try to screw you.

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PART D – Fuck up, but do it with confidence.
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Be willing to totally fuck up. Go in to your first few networking opportunities without your inhibitions. Make a fool of yourself, but not too much. Do it enough that you’ll feel confident when it’s time to approach people “For Reals”.
 
Where ever you are, target the person in the room with the most influence. People, especially geeks and creative types, are afraid of eye contact and what they perceive to be alpha males/females. Don’t be afraid of these people. Approach them. Ask questions that display your knowledge, but will also appeal to their egos. Anyone who teaches anything, or does any public speaking needs other people to approve of them on a constant basis.
 
The insecure crowd, of which I’m a part, will take every opportunity to talk about themselves, what they know, and how great they are.
 
The people I always remembered from giving my talks were those who approached me afterward, asked a couple questions, taught me something new, and did so without the slightest bit of supplication.
 
Showing nothing but humility to people in charge, especially managers and other morons, will bump you out of the running. They’ll use you for their own purposes for the duration of the interview. Then they’ll either hire you on as a low-paid sycophant, or they’ll never see you again, their personal needs having already been met.
 
When selling yourself, this is what you need to communicate:
 
1. You’re confident because you have every right to be.
 
2. You’re charging what you charge because you’re worth it, and although there are cheaper people out there, they’ll just fuck everything up. You’ll have to be brought in anyway to clean up their messes. This is true. I made a lot of money when people gave in and brought me in to repair all the damage wrought by the unworthy.
 
3. You’re an equal, but not disrespectfully so. You don’t want to appear prostrate. If you do, people sense it, and they will enjoy stepping on you. Put yourself on the same level as them, and use that to fuel your confidence. You aren’t lording your amazingness over the hiring manager, but you’re also not begging.
 
4. MOST IMPORTANT: You can and will make the company money. Demonstrate your value through whatever means you can, and always focus on how you can make them money. That’s the point of hiring you. Applicants get hung up on how much they will make, forgetting that the purpose of the job isn’t to pay people, but to turn them into cash for a business.
 
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PART E – Binary Truth
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While you don’t “have to” lie to get a job, you’re much more likely to get a good job if you mangle the truth a bit. I’m compulsively honest. I’ve shared extremely private thoughts with hundreds of thousands of people, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. So, when I tell you all of this, keep that in mind. Like Celes, and maybe you, I’m freakishly devoted to honesty.
 
However, in binary, 10 = decimal 2.
 
When you search for a job, you aren’t operating in familiar territory. You’re working in binary, or hexadecimal, or octal, or whatever. The same basic rules apply, but the representations of the values have changed.
 
Tell a child that 10 = 2, and you’ll have a hell of an argument on your hands. But 10 does equal two in the right context.
 
You aren’t lying when you say that 10 = 2. Under normal everyday conditions, 10 = 10, but when you’re working in unfamiliar territory (like binary), 10 = 2 is true.
 
Job seeking takes place in its own pocket of the universe. You deal with humans (kind of), and you probably use English to communicate (here, anyway), but because everybody lies, the baseline for truth is altered.
 
Understand as well that honesty and truth are only barely related.
 
Honesty is what happens when you provide what you believe to be the case without intent to deceive. Truth is absolute.
 
If your code of ethics tells you that being honest is the right thing to do, then being honest is right.
 
Regardless of your personal values, however, you will never be correct in this case.
 
Right and wrong are moral decisions based on those personal values. They’re like honesty.
 
Correct and Incorrect are absolutes like truth. And given how little we really know about the universe, the likelihood that you’re ever going to be correct is infinitesimal.
 
So, you can be right while being grossly incorrect.
 
To map it back to the discussion, you can be honest without telling the truth.
 
The truth is slippery, anyway. Most people would agree that the sky is blue, but, in reality, the sky most certainly is not blue. What’s blue is the light in the shorter wavelengths of the visual spectrum that didn’t get filtered out on their journey down through the atmosphere.
 
You could be honest and say, “The sky is blue.” It wouldn’t be the truth.
 
Now, apply this to the job world. The fact is, you don’t know what other people know. That is, you don’t know where their skill levels truly lie. How do you like that double-meaning? You don’t have nearly enough information to determine how qualified you are or aren’t for a job. Based on the interviews I’ve helped to conduct, I can tell you that the hiring managers sure as hell don’t know what the job is about or whether you’re qualified. They’re lost as anybody.
 
Yeah, they’ll do some talking, and, if they’re smart, they’ll bring in some of their employees who do the same or similar work to what you’d be doing. Even in that case you can’t assume anything. They may have hired entire teams of people who bullshitted their way through the interviews. Most of those people will have some skill, some knowledge, but usually no natural aptitude for their work. So when they question you, they won’t ask the important questions. They don’t know what the important questions are. They just don’t know what in the hell they’re doing.
 
– – – – –

PART F: Creativity works
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Now we’re going to get you a useful context in which to operate while conducting your search:
 
1. Assume the worst about other people. Most people are average. That’s what average is. They don’t have creativity, and they fake their way through life. If you are creative, like Celes or I, you have novel ways of looking at things. Even if you assume that these people have a decent set of skills, creativity is something that can’t be faked. It’s in high demand right now. People are learning that creativity is much more important than many other qualities.
 
This is true.
 
When searching for test pilots to become astronauts, a bunch of pilots with extremely high IQs were rounded up.
 
It was thought that these pilots would do the best job of reacting to the unexpected, and since the unexpected is what awaited these people, an aptitude for handling crazy situations was required.
 
When these guys were tested, it was found that they reacted horribly. IQ tests are based on certain basic perceptual faculties, certain intellectual abilities, and so on. It’s all very linear.
 
These tests don’t measure creativity. There’s a French version that gets into creativity, but where logic and math puzzles can have “correct” answers, creativity isn’t so easy to measure.
 
The guys up in those planes could think their way through a situation, but they couldn’t feel their way through. And when the world is going terribly wrong terribly quickly, thinking through a problem is too, too, much too slow.
 
The high IQ pilots were replaced with a bunch of nuts. It turns out the wild, crazy pilots did much better. These are guys who had probably never tied their shoelaces the same way twice. They came up with new approaches to problems as a matter of daily routine. They were built for the unexpected.
 
Creativity is huge. Anyone can learn the linear aspect of assembling projects, but nobody can learn to be creative. You either are or you aren’t. If you have it, have confidence in that and value it over experience.
 
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PART G: KNOW
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2. Assume that the hiring managers don’t know what they’re talking about. This is nearly always the case. Even at Microsoft, managers sweat like mad over hires. It’s because they do not know what they’re doing. This is the corporate world. This is the business world. If the hiring managers are asking you what you want or what you’d like, it’s because they’re looking to you to provide guidance. They don’t know what to do, so they’re letting you run part of the interview. Take this and run with it. Or create this situation. But do your best to make it feel like it was their decision. That is, pick up on hints, questions, and so on, and work them into your game. Expand on their ideas for them. Where they drop off, pick up.
 
3. KNOW that you’re every bit as capable, if not much more so, as the other employees. Every job is a learning experience. You are NOT expected to know everything. You just have to demonstrate that you’ve got something going on and that you have the aptitude/skill/interest/determination to turn it into something bigger and better.
 
– – – – –

PART H: Conclusion
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4. Don’t forget that 10 == 2. Job Hunt Reality is different than Reality. The values are changed. People have lied to the point that colors are swapped, humans breathe methane, dogs speak Italian, and so on. It’s all very Alice in Wonderland. You aren’t lying when you present a falsehood. You’re being honest in an unfamiliar context. Ask yourself what you believe about the situation. Do you believe that you deserve the job? Then you do. Do you believe that you can do the job as well or better than anyone else on the team? Then you can. It’s that simple.
 
Have fun. Treat it like a game. Look at your life as an experiment and take risks. If you’re already unemployed or have a job you don’t like, can it get any worse? Give new things a shot and trust yourself. Follow through even when you’re nervous. If you’re nervous, it probably means you’re taking a risk. Taking risks is the only way to stand above everybody else. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes you get stabbed in the face by a narwhal. That’s what risk is: it’s a potentially big win or a potentially big loss. It isn’t random or entirely up to chance. It’s up to you, your discretion, and your abilities whether a risk can succeed or not.
 
Don’t feel down because you fall on your face a few times. You’ll do that, maybe a lot. But there are jobs out there, and people need people to work them. People work jobs. Tons of people have jobs.
 
If those people have jobs, then you can have a job, too. There’s nothing magical about it. You just do it.

Trust, Even After Trying it’s Gone

Rex attacks with poison flour
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest for the SNES. One of the crappiest Final Fantasy games ever made has some of the crappiest writers and translators at the wheel.

A warning to those who don’t know eating flour provided by undead dinosaurs may be potentially hazardous: an adventuring career maybe isn’t for you. This has been a video game public announcement.

What kind of adjective is “flamerous”? It certainly isn’t English.
– – – – –

Gawn and Treye sat down together in a cafe in a the small, industrial city of Worner, sleepy in its wintry shell. They hadn’t seen each other in months, though they live but miles apart. Treye had been calling Gawn off and on for weeks- as well as everyone else she knows in the city with little luck. Even friends with which Treye knew nothing but good times seem to have moved on to somewhere or something new and exclusive. Treye was getting sick of being positive about her loneliness, and her desire to vent was fast overcoming the desire not drive Gawn away. It had been three days since Treye spoke to anyone other than customers at work and voicemail boxes of friends. All of her recent attempts to try and meet new people were met with polite but cold reactions or hopes of sex.

Treye was about to give up on humanity and the act of putting trust in people. Still, she reached out to Gawn on more time hoping she’d be proven wrong.

Gawn tried to reassure Treye but also has a hard time disagreeing with her assessments.

“In all trust there is the possibility for betrayal,” admits Gawn.

“Then it is better not to trust,” Treye stared into her cup of black tea, hunched over it as if huddling for warmth..

“But… without trust there is no real friendship, no closeness, none of the emotional bonds that make life worth living…” Gawn lists passionately.

“These are the experiences and feelings that make up life itself,” agrees Treye.

“Exactly,” Gawn slapped the table, glad to be getting through.

“So… you put yourself at risk, and do so knowingly and willingly.”

“…every single time,” admitted Gawn, smiling.

“How do you know when to trust others and when to trust your doubt?” Treye pushes herself and her tea further across the table towards Gawn, “How can you separate paranoia from a real, deserving lack of trust?”

“Hopefully you trust yourself over others before the knife ends up in your back. Other than that, I really can’t give you an answer. Some people trust others until they give them sure reason not to. Some will even forgive and extend trust again and again.”

“How does one find a trustworthy individual?” Gawn seemed to have all the answers, and Treye hoped she could pull some to apply to her own life.

“The same way one finds an honest man.”

“What?”

“I’m saying, one doesn’t. The capacity for betrayal is within all of us.”

“Not me,” Treye denied without a hint of pride or happiness at the proclamation.

“If that’s true, then I pity you. You are doomed to a lifetime of expectations that no one can fulfill and things given that no one can reciprocate.”

“Perhaps there is something wrong with me,” Treye squeezed the ceramic mug, “Sometimes I suspect I am not human.”

“Oh, you’re human all right- human enough to feel betrayed, rejected, isolated, like no one understands you-”

“So, I’m just a whiny cliche?” Treye chuckled at herself without a bit of humor.

“No, just human: individual, but part of a common experience of common emotions.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. People don’t feel the same way,” Treye paused, thinking before finding the words to explain, “Sure, we all get sad or angry, but one person’s depression is barely another person’s sadness. The same sad person maybe feels barely any anger”

“How would you know?”

“I know when I react honestly and deeply, there are times I’m told I should be in a mental institution or on a drug.”

“Yes… I guess some people are… sensitive,” Gawn conceded.

“And I’ve met other… sensitive… people and have found they understand me better, but are perhaps even more selfish that the norm. The can be more unsympathetic.”

“They’re trying and protect themselves maybe?”

“I could think of many reasons. In the end, it just is. The sensitive person is a victim in a cycle of their own creation making themselves more the victim by throwing themselves under trucks and into fires- that is unenjoyable, but comfortably selfish: the attention they attract, the band aid of other’s pity and self pity. Other people become competition,” Treye shakes her head bitterly.

“And you’re different..?”

“Yes. I know I hurt myself by giving trust to those who don’t deserve it, by not being able to connect with people that would treat me better, but I don’t advertise it like a beacon hoping for those to flock to me to ease the pain as well as allow it to continue so the flock stays.”

“Maybe you should. Maybe you just don’t because you’re afraid they won’t come.”

“No, I’m afraid of being disgusting and weak like them. I’m afraid of my own guilt,” admitted Treye.

“Oh, so bottle it up inside and try hard not to trust those you want to. There’s a logical solution,” Gawn rolled his eyes and nibbled at the left over crumbs of his scone.

“I guess I’m caught in a bit of a paradox.”

“If your values weren’t mixed up in this, I’d have a solution: throw your honesty, integrity, pride, loyalty out the door… Just be and accept.”

“What, like them? Those people don’t accept anything- they live in constant delusion. I’d rather be miserable than delude myself,”

“Would you rather be lonely than to try to trust again? To never connect or know someone else again?” Gawn was getting frustrated.

“It doesn’t matter much what I want. I’m lonely either way. Trust gives darkness a face to whisper to at least.”

“For a bit of pity for you?”

“No. Connection. For real, honest connection. Not ‘I feel bad for you’, but ‘I know what you mean, and hang in there.’.”

“You’re talking about wanting someone to care, understand, and accept you as you are,” Gawn was trying the best to be understanding and sympathetic, but was seeing the circular logic Treye was caught in.

“Yes. And I know I will find it again. It’s just painful knowing it never lasts. At the next inconvenient moment the connection ceases.”

“Um… can we maybe talk about this some other time? I mean, it’s been good talking but… I just have a lot of stuff to do, you know?” Gawn got up to leave. He put forth a forced smile and mentally asked for forgiveness.

“Yes. I understand. I know. Goodbye.”

Treye and Gawn never saw each other again.