Wednesday, September 19, 2012

At the Intersection of Idealism and Realism

When you've been online for many years and have been actively involved with a wide range of forums you get a LOT of fairly random email... including email asking for various forms of help. Getting help to get projects going has gotten easier than ever, thanks to online services like "Kickstarter," "GoFundMe" and several others that allow people to fund their dreams with peer support, rather than depending on bank loans or "rich uncle" funding.

However, it saddens me that so many amazing projects driven by beautiful ideas (and ideals) are created and doomed to fail... only because of piss-poor planning and unrealistic expectations.

Not thinking of anything or anyone in particular... because I see this ALL the time.

"Wow... you invented a new biofuel based on water, which will cut the cost of running your car by 90%, and the manufacturing bi-products happens a cure for cancer? And now you want to bring it to market yourself instead of letting some big corporation bury it somewhere? That's the most amazing and beautiful thing I have very heard! Go YOU!"

Long pause...

"Wait..... what? You want everyone to know about it and have the whole thing funded and developed in the next 30 DAYS? And you only have $43 to make this a reality? On WHAT planet is that possible?"

There's this surrounding illusion that "people" will want to get involved because there's this great idea. Unfortunately, these mystical "people" tend to get sent 300 "amazing ideas" every week... and they won't know you even exist... unless Warren Buffett happens to be a close personal friend. The dream that your idea will "go viral" and half a million people hand over $20 each to fund your Kickstarter campaign is pretty much just that... a dream.

The reality of life is that 99.9% of people have to be pounded in the head 600 times with a 20lb sledgehammer before they recognize-- let alone start MOVING towards... then accept and embrace-- a new idea, or a new product, or whatever... so unless you have that rich uncle you didn't tell me about and 20 of your closest friends happen to be movers and shakers with 5 million followers on twitter, you'd better re-think your approach.

Am I jaded and cynical? Do I not believe in realizing dreams? No, not exactly. I've dealt with the marketing of non-mainstream ideas and products for over 25 years... and my experience (even when you have most amazing and worthwhile thing) has been that to make your DREAMS become a REALITY... you have to step outside "dreamland" and "get REAL" with your dreams. Otherwise they shall remain... sadly... "dreams."

Not long ago, I watched the brother of a prominent writer wanting to create a documentary about his now deceased brother's life and times. Indeed, a very interesting project with a fairly broad appeal. Even with all the web tools we now have, it took him 90 days of persistent marketing and awareness generation to barely raise the needed funds. And this was someone with a fair amount of resources and an extensive contact list.

Certainly not writing these words to discourage people from pursuing their dreams. Merely pointing out that the whole notion of "making our dreams a reality" revolves around the word "REALITY." Which means the success of bringing your dream to market means you have to DEAL with reality... and plan around reality. Whereas it does happen-- once in a blue moon-- the "And Then A Miracle Happened" method of dream development is notoriously unreliable....

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

THINKING... and the Joys and Pitfalls of the Internet

The Internet is a lovely invention. Never before have we had access to such an extensive source of information and such an instant source of "the latest." Just SECONDS after Michael Jackson, Dennis Hopper or anyone else dies, there's a Wikipedia entry about their death.

Everybody becomes a news reporter, an expert, a commentator and a front row spectator to everything that ever happens, out there.

It's kinda stunning, don't you think? I mean, just sit back and ponder that, for a moment... just 100 years ago, it might be several days before you even knew the President had been shot...

I grew up in a dysfunctional household; dysfunctional parents... blah, blah, blah. Whatever other faults and problems the 'rents may have passed onto me... one thing they did give me was the ability to "think for myself." It's something I am incredibly grateful for, even though I have often been taken to task for my unwillingness to be part of "popular" culture, group-think and "normal," if and when it just "doesn't feel right" to me.

There's a saying "Great minds think alike!"

I was raised with "Great minds think for THEMSELVES."

But let's go back to that marvel we call The Internet.

Recently I was looking at a YouTube clip someone had sent me a link to, and it really struck home how the web is this place where you can find supporting "evidence" for almost ANY belief you might hold.

You believe that beef fat is going to kill you? Five minutes with Google, and you can find scientific evidence that your belief is true. You believe that beef fat is actually good for you? Five minutes with Google, and you can find scientific evidence that your belief is true. In a more recent historical context, you could concurrently find "overwhelming evidence" that the oil spill in the Gulf would cause the end of all life on the planet AND that BP had it under control.

My point being that I sometimes feel alarmed by the degree to which people mindlessly allow what they find online to become "an extension and reinforcement" of their beliefs... without pausing to QUESTION what they read!

This is particularly true of so-called "conspiracy theorists."

I keep thinking about "scientific methodology" and the various perils of research, as they were explained to me when I was in college. And the danger of being "attached to a theory," and then going off in search of "evidence" to support your theory, rather than merely observing FACTS and then forming a theory around patterns that appear to be true.

Odds are that the white cable company van across the street, and the cable guy pulling new wires into your neighbor's house is not "them" watching you, just a cable guy. Seriously? Wake up and smell your reality, friends!

The truth is that "they" don't give a shit about you, unless you're actively about to unveil something that will massively and effectively undermine and change the current dominant paradigm. You have a formula for an additive you put in water, and it becomes a fuel that can be used with existing internal combustion engines and the exhaust is only water vapor? Thereby rendering all oil production irrelevant? Yeah, "they" might be watching you. You're talking about UFOs with your online buddies? Newsflash... "they" don't give a shit, unless what you're talking about is video you shot inside the kill zone at Area 51. To think that you-- the individual-- matters to "them" is little more than a pathologically narcissistic inflation of your own self-importance. And I'm sure you now think "they" told me to say that!

So how did I end up here? Well, in recent years I've been trying to eat more consciously, and not put so much garbage into my body... not just for me, but also for the sake of my honey... we'd like to have a long and healthy life together. And so, where did I turn for information? The Internet. Where I found little more than a cloud of unsubstantiated opinions about what "healthy eating" actually looks like... from rabid vegans to equally rabid meat-eaters, to doctors, to nutritionists, to other experts...

... and it struck me that these people were all less about "providing basic facts," than about having a platform for their personal agendas. Like "The Undiluted And Straightforward Truth" is the last thing anyone wants to talk about... be they conservative or liberal; rabid or passive.

In the end, my "quest for food information" ended with a deeply non-electronic observation. I looked at my own relatives, many of whom lived past 90, none of whom had access to the Internet and few of whom even read a book about diet or nutrition... and realized how much the modern age seems obsessed with overcomplicating the very simple business of living. These people-- who were much healthier than average-- lived by very simple rules: Prepare everything from original ingredients, stay physically active, and eat/do everything in balanced moderation.

Of course, the cynic in me realizes that if it "was just THAT simple" there wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar health and food industry. There wouldn't be lots of "right" and "wrong" things for us to consume... to support the Capitalist Machine. But that's for a whole other discussion.