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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

Secrets of design

In the great 1980s movie “The Blues Brothers,” there’s a scene where John Belushi goes to visit Dan Aykroyd in his apartment in Chicago for the very first time. It’s a cramped, tiny space and it’s just three feet away from the train tracks.

As John sits on Dan’s bed, a train goes rushing by, rattling everything in the room. John asks, “How often does that train go by?” Dan replies, “So often, you won’t even notice it.” And then, something falls off the wall.

0:48 We all know what he’s talking about. As human beings, we get used to everyday things really fast. As a product designer, it’s my job to see those everyday things, to feel them, and try to improve upon them. For example, see this piece of fruit? See this little sticker? That sticker wasn’t there when I was a kid. But somewhere as the years passed, someone had the bright idea to put that sticker on the fruit. Why? So it could be easier for us to check out at the grocery counter.

1:22 Well that’s great, we can get in and out of the store quickly. But now, there’s a new problem. When we get home and we’re hungry and we see this ripe, juicy piece of fruit on the counter, we just want to pick it up and eat it. Except now, we have to look for this little sticker. And dig at it with our nails, damaging the flesh. Then rolling up that sticker — you know what I mean. And then trying to flick it off your fingers. (Applause) It’s not fun, not at all.

1:58 But something interesting happened. See the first time you did it, you probably felt those feelings. You just wanted to eat the piece of fruit. You felt upset. You just wanted to dive in. By the 10th time, you started to become less upset and you just started peeling the label off. By the 100th time, at least for me, I became numb to it. I simply picked up the piece of fruit, dug at it with my nails, tried to flick it off, and then wondered, “Was there another sticker?”

2:34 So why is that? Why do we get used to everyday things? Well as human beings, we have limited brain power. And so our brains encode the everyday things we do into habits so we can free up space to learn new things. It’s a process called habituation and it’s one of the most basic ways, as humans, we learn.

2:56 Now, habituation isn’t always bad. Remember learning to drive? I sure do. Your hands clenched at 10 and 2 on the wheel, looking at every single object out there — the cars, the lights, the pedestrians. It’s a nerve-wracking experience. So much so, that I couldn’t even talk to anyone else in the car and I couldn’t even listen to music. But then something interesting happened. As the weeks went by, driving became easier and easier. You habituated it. It started to become fun and second nature. And then, you could talk to your friends again and listen to music.

3:37 So there’s a good reason why our brains habituate things. If we didn’t, we’d notice every little detail, all the time. It would be exhausting, and we’d have no time to learn about new things.

3:51 But sometimes, habituation isn’t good. If it stops us from noticing the problems that are around us, well, that’s bad. And if it stops us from noticing and fixing those problems, well, then that’s really bad.

4:06 Comedians know all about this. Jerry Seinfeld’s entire career was built on noticing those little details, those idiotic things we do every day that we don’t even remember. He tells us about the time he visited his friends and he just wanted to take a comfortable shower. He’d reach out and grab the handle and turn it slightly one way, and it was 100 degrees too hot. And then he’d turn it the other way, and it was 100 degrees too cold. He just wanted a comfortable shower. Now, we’ve all been there, we just don’t remember it. But Jerry did, and that’s a comedian’s job.

4:44 But designers, innovators and entrepreneurs, it’s our job to not just notice those things, but to go one step further and try to fix them.

4:54 See this, this person, this is Mary Anderson. In 1902 in New York City, she was visiting. It was a cold, wet, snowy day and she was warm inside a streetcar. As she was going to her destination, she noticed the driver opening the window to clean off the excess snow so he could drive safely. When he opened the window, though, he let all this cold, wet air inside, making all the passengers miserable. Now probably, most of those passengers just thought, “It’s a fact of life, he’s got to open the window to clean it. That’s just how it is.” But Mary didn’t. Mary thought, “What if the diver could actually clean the windshield from the inside so that he could stay safe and drive and the passengers could actually stay warm?” So she picked up her sketchbook right then and there, and began drawing what would become the world’s first windshield wiper.

5:55 Now as a product designer, I try to learn from people like Mary to try to see the world the way it really is, not the way we think it is. Why? Because it’s easy to solve a problem that almost everyone sees. But it’s hard to solve a problem that almost no one sees.

6:15 Now some people think you’re born with this ability or you’re not, as if Mary Anderson was hardwired at birth to see the world more clearly. That wasn’t the case for me. I had to work at it. During my years at Apple, Steve Jobs challenged us to come into work every day, to see our products through the eyes of the customer, the new customer, the one that has fears and possible frustrations and hopeful exhilaration that their new technology product could work straightaway for them. He called it staying beginners, and wanted to make sure that we focused on those tiny little details to make them faster, easier and seamless for the new customers.

7:03 So I remember this clearly in the very earliest days of the iPod. See, back in the ’90s, being a gadget freak like I am, I would rush out to the store for the very, very latest gadget. I’d take all the time to get to the store, I’d check out, I’d come back home, I’d start to unbox it. And then, there was another little sticker: the one that said, “Charge before use.”

7:33 What! I can’t believe it! I just spent all this time buying this product and now I have to charge before use. I have to wait what felt like an eternity to use that coveted new toy. It was crazy.

7:45 But you know what? Almost every product back then did that. When it had batteries in it, and you had to charge it before you used it. Well, Steve noticed that and he said, “We’re not going to let that happen to our product.” So what did we do? Typically, when you have a product that has a hard drive in it, you run it for about 30 minutes in the factory to make sure that hard drive’s going to be working years later for the customer after they pull it out of the box. What did we do instead? We ran that product for over two hours. Why? Well, first off, we could make a higher quality product, be easy to test, and make sure it was great for the customer. But most importantly, the battery came fully charged right out of the box, ready to use. So that customer, with all that exhilaration, could just start using the product. It was great, and it worked. People liked it.

8:43 Today, almost every product that you get that’s battery powered comes out of the box fully charged, even if it doesn’t have a hard drive. But back then, we noticed that detail and we fixed it, and now everyone else does that as well. No more, “Charge before use.”

9:01 So why am I telling you this? Well, it’s seeing the invisible problem, not just the obvious problem, that’s important, not just for product design, but for everything we do. You see, there are invisible problems all around us, ones we can solve. But first we need to see them, to feel them.

9:23 So, I’m hesitant to give you any tips about neuroscience or psychology. There’s far too many experienced people in the TED community who would know much more about that than I ever will. But let me leave you with a few tips that I do, that we all can do, to fight habituation.

9:41 My first tip is to look broader. You see, when you’re tackling a problem, sometimes, there are a lot of steps that lead up to that problem. And sometimes, a lot of steps after it. If you can take a step back and look broader, maybe you can change some of those boxes before the problem. Maybe you can combine them. Maybe you can remove them altogether to make that better.

10:05 Take thermostats, for instance. In the 1900s when they first came out, they were really simple to use. You could turn them up or turn them down. People understood them. But in the 1970s, the energy crisis struck, and customers started thinking about how to save energy. So what happened? Thermostat designers decided to add a new step. Instead of just turning up and down, you now had to program it. So you could tell it the temperature you wanted at a certain time. Now that seemed great. Every thermostat had started adding that feature. But it turned out that no one saved any energy. Now, why is that? Well, people couldn’t predict the future. They just didn’t know how their weeks would change season to season, year to year. So no one was saving energy, and what happened?

10:56 Thermostat designers went back to the drawing board and they focused on that programming step. They made better U.I.s, they made better documentation. But still, years later, people were not saving any energy because they just couldn’t predict the future. So what did we do? We put a machine-learning algorithm in instead of the programming that would simply watch when you turned it up and down, when you liked a certain temperature when you got up, or when you went away. And you know what? It worked. People are saving energy without any programming.

11:34 So, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you take a step back and look at all the boxes, maybe there’s a way to remove one or combine them so that you can make that process much simpler. So that’s my first tip: look broader.

11:49 For my second tip, it’s to look closer. One of my greatest teachers was my grandfather. He taught me all about the world. He taught me how things were built and how they were repaired, the tools and techniques necessary to make a successful project. I remember one story he told me about screws, and about how you need to have the right screw for the right job. There are many different screws: wood screws, metal screws, anchors, concrete screws, the list went on and on. Our job is to make products that are easy to install for all of our customs themselves without professionals. So what did we do? I remembered that story that my grandfather told me, and so we thought, “How many different screws can we put in the box? Was it going to be two, three, four, five? Because there’s so many different wall types.” So we thought about it, we optimized it, and we came up with three different screws to put in the box. We thought that was going to solve the problem. But it turned out, it didn’t.

13:00 So we shipped the product, and people weren’t having a great experience. So what did we do? We went back to the drawing board just instantly after we figured out we didn’t get it right. And we designed a special screw, a custom screw, much to the chagrin of our investors. They were like, “Why are you spending so much time on a little screw? Get out there and sell more!” And we said, “We will sell more if we get this right.” And it turned out, we did. With that custom little screw, there was just one screw in the box, that was easy to mount and put on the wall.

13:36 So if we focus on those tiny details, the ones we may not see and we look at them as we say, “Are those important or is that the way we’ve always done it? Maybe there’s a way to get rid of those.”

13:53 So my last piece of advice is to think younger. Every day, I’m confronted with interesting questions from my three young kids. They come up with questions like, “Why can’t cars fly around traffic?” Or, “Why don’t my shoelaces have Velcro instead?” Sometimes, those questions are smart. My son came to me the other day and I asked him, “Go run out to the mailbox and check it.” He looked at me, puzzled, and said, “Why doesn’t the mailbox just check itself and tell us when it has mail?” (Laughter) I was like, “That’s a pretty good question.” So, they can ask tons of questions and sometimes we find out we just don’t have the right answers. We say, “Son, that’s just the way the world works.” So the more we’re exposed to something, the more we get used to it. But kids haven’t been around long enough to get used to those things. And so when they run into problems, they immediately try to solve them, and sometimes they find a better way, and that way really is better.

15:07 So my advice that we take to heart is to have young people on your team, or people with young minds. Because if you have those young minds, they cause everyone in the room to think younger. Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is when he or she grows up, is how to remain an artist.” We all saw the world more clearly when we saw it for the first time, before a lifetime of habits got in the way. Our challenge is to get back there, to feel that frustration, to see those little details, to look broader, look closer, and to think younger so we can stay beginners.

15:55 It’s not easy. It requires us pushing back against one of the most basic ways we make sense of the world. But if we do, we could do some pretty amazing things. For me, hopefully, that’s better product design. For you, that could mean something else, something powerful.

16:17 Our challenge is to wake up each day and say, “How can I experience the world better?” And if we do, maybe, just maybe, we can get rid of these dumb little stickers.

Patsy Z shared this link
TED. 23 hrs ·

The designer of the iPod shares three tips for solving invisible problems in the world around you:

t.ted.com|By Tony Fadell, designer of the iPod

Speak up for yourself. Do you need mentoring?

Speaking up is hard to do, even when you know you should.

Learn how to assert yourself, navigate tricky social situations and expand your personal power with sage guidance.

Adam Galinsky. Social psychologist. Full bio
Filmed Sept. 2016
I understood the true meaning of this phrase exactly one month ago, when my wife and I became new parents. It was an amazing moment. It was exhilarating and elating, but it was also scary and terrifying.
And it got particularly terrifying when we got home from the hospital, and we were unsure whether our little baby boy was getting enough nutrients from breastfeeding. And we wanted to call our pediatrician, but we also didn’t want to make a bad first impression or come across as a crazy, neurotic parent.

So we worried. And we waited. When we got to the doctor’s office the next day, she immediately gave him formula because he was pretty dehydrated. Our son is fine now, and our doctor has reassured us we can always contact her. But in that moment, I should’ve spoken up, but I didn’t.

1:09 But sometimes we speak up when we shouldn’t, and I learned that over 10 years ago when I let my twin brother down. My twin brother is a documentary filmmaker, and for one of his first films, he got an offer from a distribution company. He was excited, and he was inclined to accept the offer.

But as a negotiations researcher, I insisted he make a counteroffer, and I helped him craft the perfect one. And it was perfect — it was perfectly insulting. The company was so offended, they literally withdrew the offer and my brother was left with nothing.

I’ve asked people all over the world about this dilemma of speaking up: when they can assert themselves, when they can push their interests, when they can express an opinion, when they can make an ambitious ask.

And the range of stories are varied and diverse, but they also make up a universal tapestry. Can I correct my boss when they make a mistake?

Can I confront my coworker who keeps stepping on my toes?

Can I challenge my friend’s insensitive joke?

Can I tell the person I love the most my deepest insecurities?

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
ted.com|By Adam Galinsky
And through these experiences, I’ve come to recognize that each of us have something called a range of acceptable behavior

sometimes we’re too strong; we push ourselves too much. That’s what happened with my brother. Even making an offer was outside his range of acceptable behavior. But sometimes we’re too weak. That’s what happened with my wife and I. And this range of acceptable behaviors — when we stay within our range, we’re rewarded. When we step outside that range, we get punished in a variety of ways. We get dismissed or demeaned or even ostracized. Or we lose that raise or that promotion or that deal.

3:00 Now, the first thing we need to know is: What is my range? But the key thing is, our range isn’t fixed; it’s actually pretty dynamic. It expands and it narrows based on the context. And there’s one thing that determines that range more than anything else, and that’s your power. Your power determines your range. What is power? Power comes in lots of forms. In negotiations, it comes in the form of alternatives. So my brother had no alternatives; he lacked power. The company had lots of alternatives; they had power. Sometimes it’s being new to a country, like an immigrant, or new to an organization or new to an experience, like my wife and I as new parents. Sometimes it’s at work, where someone’s the boss and someone’s the subordinate. Sometimes it’s in relationships, where one person’s more invested than the other person.

3:54 And the key thing is that when we have lots of power, our range is very wide. We have a lot of leeway in how to behave. But when we lack power, our range narrows. We have very little leeway. The problem is that when our range narrows, that produces something called the low-power double bind. The low-power double bind happens when, if we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed, but if we do speak up, we get punished.

4:24 Now, many of you have heard the phrase the “double bind” and connected it with one thing, and that’s gender. The gender double bind is women who don’t speak up go unnoticed, and women who do speak up get punished. And the key thing is that women have the same need as men to speak up, but they have barriers to doing so. But what my research has shown over the last two decades is that what looks like a gender difference is not really a gender double bind, it’s a really a low-power double bind. And what looks like a gender difference are really often just power differences in disguise.

Oftentimes we see a difference between a man and a woman or men and women, and think, “Biological cause. There’s something fundamentally different about the sexes.” But in study after study, I’ve found that a better explanation for many sex differences is really power. And so it’s the low-power double bind. And the low-power double bind means that we have a narrow range, and we lack power. We have a narrow range, and our double bind is very large.

5:33 So we need to find ways to expand our range. And over the last couple decades, my colleagues and I have found two things really matter. The first: you seem powerful in your own eyes. The second: you seem powerful in the eyes of others. When I feel powerful, I feel confident, not fearful; I expand my own range. When other people see me as powerful, they grant me a wider range. So we need tools to expand our range of acceptable behavior. And I’m going to give you a set of tools today. Speaking up is risky, but these tools will lower your risk of speaking up.

6:14 The first tool I’m going to give you got discovered in negotiations in an important finding. On average, women make less ambitions offers and get worse outcomes than men at the bargaining table. But Hannah Riley Bowles and Emily Amanatullah have discovered there’s one situation where women get the same outcomes as men and are just as ambitious. That’s when they advocate for others. When they advocate for others, they discover their own range and expand it in their own mind.

They become more assertive. This is sometimes called “the mama bear effect.” Like a mama bear defending her cubs, when we advocate for others, we can discover our own voice.

7:01 But sometimes, we have to advocate for ourselves. How do we do that? One of the most important tools we have to advocate for ourselves is something called perspective-taking. And perspective-taking is really simple: it’s simply looking at the world through the eyes of another person. It’s one of the most important tools we have to expand our range. When I take your perspective, and I think about what you really want, you’re more likely to give me what I really want.

7:32 But here’s the problem: perspective-taking is hard to do. So let’s do a little experiment. I want you all to hold your hand just like this: your finger — put it up. And I want you to draw a capital letter E on your forehead as quickly as possible. OK, it turns out that we can draw this E in one of two ways, and this was originally designed as a test of perspective-taking. I’m going to show you two pictures of someone with an E on their forehead — my former student, Erika Hall.

And you can see over here, that’s the correct E. I drew the E so it looks like an E to another person. That’s the perspective-taking E because it looks like an E from someone else’s vantage point. But this E over here is the self-focused E. We often get self-focused. And we particularly get self-focused in a crisis.

8:25 I want to tell you about a particular crisis. A man walks into a bank in Watsonville, California. And he says, “Give me $2,000, or I’m blowing the whole bank up with a bomb.” Now, the bank manager didn’t give him the money. She took a step back. She took his perspective, and she noticed something really important. He asked for a specific amount of money.

8:47 So she said, “Why did you ask for $2,000?”

8:52 And he said, “My friend is going to be evicted unless I get him $2,000 immediately.”

8:56 And she said, “Oh! You don’t want to rob the bank — you want to take out a loan.”

9:01 (Laughter)

9:02 “Why don’t you come back to my office, and we can have you fill out the paperwork.”

9:06 (Laughter)

9:08 Now, her quick perspective-taking defused a volatile situation. So when we take someone’s perspective, it allows us to be ambitious and assertive, but still be likable.

9:20 Here’s another way to be assertive but still be likable, and that is to signal flexibility. Now, imagine you’re a car salesperson, and you want to sell someone a car. You’re going to more likely make the sale if you give them two options. Let’s say option A: $24,000 for this car and a five-year warranty. Or option B: $23,000 and a three-year warranty. My research shows that when you give people a choice among options, it lowers their defenses, and they’re more likely to accept your offer.

9:53 And this doesn’t just work with salespeople; it works with parents. When my niece was four, she resisted getting dressed and rejected everything. But then my sister-in-law had a brilliant idea. What if I gave my daughter a choice? This shirt or that shirt? OK, that shirt. This pant or that pant? OK, that pant. And it worked brilliantly. She got dressed quickly and without resistance.

10:16 When I’ve asked the question around the world when people feel comfortable speaking up, the number one answer is: “When I have social support in my audience; when I have allies.” So we want to get allies on our side. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways is be a mama bear. When we advocate for others, we expand our range in our own eyes and the eyes of others, but we also earn strong allies.

10:42 Another way we can earn strong allies, especially in high places, is by asking other people for advice. When we ask others for advice, they like us because we flatter them, and we’re expressing humility. And this really works to solve another double bind. And that’s the self-promotion double bind. The self-promotion double bind is that if we don’t advertise our accomplishments, no one notices. And if we do, we’re not likable.

11:12 But if we ask for advice about one of our accomplishments, we are able to be competent in their eyes but also be likeable. And this is so powerful it even works when you see it coming. There have been multiple times in life when I have been forewarned that a low-power person has been given the advice to come ask me for advice. I want you to notice three things about this: First, I knew they were going to come ask me for advice. Two, I’ve actually done research on the strategic benefits of asking for advice. And three, it still worked! I took their perspective, I became more invested in their calls, I became more committed to them because they asked for advice.

11:57 Now, another time we feel more confident speaking up is when we have expertise. Expertise gives us credibility. When we have high power, we already have credibility. We only need good evidence. When we lack power, we don’t have the credibility. We need excellent evidence.

12:16 And one of the ways we can come across as an expert is by tapping into our passion. I want everyone in the next few days to go up to friend of theirs and just say to them, “I want you to describe a passion of yours to me.” I’ve had people do this all over the world and I asked them, “What did you notice about the other person when they described their passion?” And the answers are always the same. “Their eyes lit up and got big.” “They smiled a big beaming smile.” “They used their hands all over — I had to duck because their hands were coming at me.” “They talk quickly with a little higher pitch.”

12:53 (Laughter)

12:54 “They leaned in as if telling me a secret.”

12:56 And then I said to them, “What happened to you as you listened to their passion?”

13:01 They said, “My eyes lit up. I smiled. I leaned in.”

13:06 When we tap into our passion, we give ourselves the courage, in our own eyes, to speak up, but we also get the permission from others to speak up. Tapping into our passion even works when we come across as too weak. Both men and women get punished at work when they shed tears. But Lizzie Wolf has shown that when we frame our strong emotions as passion, the condemnation of our crying disappears for both men and women.

13:39 I want to end with a few words from my late father that he spoke at my twin brother’s wedding. Here’s a picture of us. My dad was a psychologist like me, but his real love and his real passion was cinema, like my brother. And so he wrote a speech for my brother’s wedding about the roles we play in the human comedy.

14:01 And he said, “The lighter your touch, the better you become at improving and enriching your performance. Those who embrace their roles and work to improve their performance grow, change and expand the self. Play it well, and your days will be mostly joyful.”

14:19 What my dad was saying is that we’ve all been assigned ranges and roles in this world. But he was also saying the essence of this talk: those roles and ranges are constantly expanding and evolving.

14:35 So when a scene calls for it, be a ferocious mama bear and a humble advice seeker. Have excellent evidence and strong allies. Be a passionate perspective taker. And if you use those tools — and each and every one of you can use these tools — you will expand your range of acceptable behavior, and your days will be mostly joyful.

Steve Jobs Keynotes addresses

April 19, 2015

A Steve Jobs keynote was a tightly choreographed and relentlessly prepared presentation, according to the new book Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender.

Jobs turned the product launch into an art form.

He leaves a legacy by which entrepreneurs can learn to dazzle their audiences. The following five keynotes will help anyone give the presentation of a lifetime.

1. The Mac launch

Every Steve Jobs presentation had one moment that people would be talking about the next day. These “moments” were tightly scripted and relentlessly rehearsed. Remarkably, Jobs’ flair for the dramatic started before PowerPoint or Apple Keynote were available as slide design tools, which proves you don’t need slides to leave your audience breathless.

Related: Former Apple CEO John Sculley: This Is What Made Steve Jobs a Genius

On Jan. 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh with a magician’s flair for the big reveal. He showed a series of images and said, “Everything you just saw was created by what’s in that bag.” And with that Jobs walked to the center of a darkened stage that had a table and a canvas bag sitting on top it. He slowly pulled the Mac from the bag, inserted a floppy disk, and walked away as the theme from Chariots of Fire began to play as images filled the screen.

The lesson: A presentation doesn’t always need slides to wow an audience.

2. The iPhone

The rule of three is one of most powerful concepts in writing. The human mind can only retain three or four “chunks” of information. Jobs was well aware of this principle and divided much of his presentations into three parts. Sometimes he even had fun with it.

For example, on Feb. 16, 2007, Jobs told the audience to expect three new products: a new iPod, a phone and an “Internet communication device.” After repeating the three products several times, he made the big reveal — all three products were wrapped in one new device, the iPhone.

The lesson: Introduce three benefits or features of a product, not 23.

3. The first MacBook Air

When Jobs introduced the “world’s thinnest notebook,” the MacBook Air, he walked to the side of the stage, pulled out a manila envelope hiding behind the podium and said, “It’s so thin it even fits inside one of those envelopes you see floating around the office.” With a beaming smile, he slowly pulled it out of the envelope for all to see.

Most presenters would have shown photographs of the product. Jobs took it one step further. He knew what would grab people’s attention. This did. Most of the blogs, magazines and newspapers that covered the launch ran a photograph of Steve Jobs pulling the computer out of the envelope.

The lesson: Don’t just tell us about a product, show it to us, and do it with pizzazz.

Related: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs

4. The iTunes Store

Every great drama has a hero and a villain. Steve Jobs was a master at introducing both heroes and villains in the same presentation. On April 28, 2003, Jobs convinced consumers to pay 99 cents for songs. Jobs began with a brief discussion of Napster and Kazaa, sites that offered “near instant gratification” and, from the user’s perspective, free downloads. On the next slide he listed the “dark side.” They were:

  • Unreliable downloads
  • Unreliable quality (“a lot of these songs are encoded by 7-year-olds and they don’t do a great job.”)
  • No previews
  • No album cover art
  • It’s stealing (“It’s best not to mess with karma.”)

In the next section of the presentation Jobs replaced each of the drawbacks with the benefits of paying for music.

  • Fast, reliable downloads
  • Pristine encoding
  • Previews of every song
  • Album cover art
  • Good Karma

The lesson: Great presentations have an antagonist — a problem — followed by a hero — the solution.

5. The genius in their craziness

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple after a 12-year absence. Apple was close to bankruptcy at the time and was quickly running out of cash.

Near the end of Jobs’ keynote at Macworld in August 1997, he slowed the pace, lowered his voice, and said: “I think you always had to be a little different to buy an Apple computer. I think the people who do buy them are the creative spirits in the world. They are the people who are not out just to get a job done, they’re out to change the world.

We make tools for those kind of people. A lot of times, people think they’re crazy. But in that craziness, we see genius. And those are the people we’re making tools for.”

The lesson: Don’t forget to motivate your internal audience — your team, employees and partners. Give them a purpose to rally around.

When I wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I argued that Jobs was the world’s greatest brand storyteller. When I watch these presentations over again, I’m convinced he’s still the best role model for entrepreneurs who will pitch the next generation of ideas that will change the world.

Related: Top 10 Ways to Make Your Presentations More Memorable

Self-Publishing Companies, Through a Legal Lens

In my last post, Five Legal Terms Every Author Should Know, I explained that the worst mistake indie authors make is losing control of their work.

After all, the key benefit of self-publishing is controlling the quality and marketing of our books, in other words, wearing the publisher hat.  [Read More]

 

Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right:

Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’?

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Charles McGrath and Siddhartha Deb debate which classic dystopian vision rings truest at the beginning of 2017: George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

By Charles McGrath

Was Orwell right after all? Not yet. Trump would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world.

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Charles McGrath Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

A month ago I would have said that not only is “Brave New World” a livelier, more entertaining book than “1984,” it’s also a more prescient one.

Orwell didn’t really have much feel for the future, which to his mind was just another version of the present. His imagined London is merely a drabber, more joyless version of the city, still recovering from the Blitz, where he was living in the mid-1940s, just before beginning the novel. The main technological advancement there is the two-way telescreen, essentially an electronic peephole.

Huxley, on the other hand, writing almost two decades earlier than Orwell (his former Eton pupil, as it happened), foresaw a world that included space travel; private helicopters; genetically engineered test tube babies; enhanced birth control; an immensely popular drug that appears to combine the best features of Valium and Ecstasy; hormone-laced chewing gum that seems to work the way Viagra does; a full sensory entertainment system that outdoes IMAX; and maybe even breast implants. (The book is a little unclear on this point, but in “Brave New World” the highest compliment you can pay a woman is to call her “pneumatic.”)

Huxley was not entirely serious about this. He began “Brave New World” as a parody of H.G. Wells, whose writing he detested, and it remained a book that means to be as playful as it is prophetic.

And yet his novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea.

So was Orwell right after all? Well, not yet.

For one thing, the political system of “1984” is an exaggerated version of anticapitalist, Stalin-era Communism, and Trump’s philosophy is anything but that. He would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world, which is based on rampant consumerism and where hordes of genetically modified losers happily tend to the needs of the winners.

Huxley believed that his version of dystopia was the more plausible one.

In a 1949 letter, thanking Orwell for sending him a copy of “1984,” he wrote that he really didn’t think all that torture and jackbooting was necessary to subdue a population, and that he believed his own book offered a better solution. All you need to do, he said, is teach people to love their servitude.

The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want — which is basically sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and lulling them into complacency. (That’s exactly what the US has been offering its citizens in the last 50 years)

The system entails a certain Trump-like suspicion of science and dismissal of history, but that’s a price the inhabitants of Huxley’s world happily pay. They don’t mourn their lost liberty, the way Orwell’s Winston Smith does; they don’t even know it’s gone.

Charles McGrath was the editor of the Book Review from 1995 to 2004, and is now a contributing writer for The Times. Earlier he was the deputy editor and the head of the fiction department of The New Yorker. Besides The Times, he has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic and Outside. He is the editor of two golf books — “The Ultimate Golf Book” and “Golf Stories” — and is currently working on an edition of John O’Hara’s stories for the Library of America.

By Siddhartha Deb

Why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two evils choices of electoral politics?

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Siddhartha Deb Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

There exists a comfortably predictable and, to my mind, uninspired approach to the dystopic novel and its powers of prognosis, a Pavlovian response that involves reaching for a copy of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” whenever extreme turbulence hits the West.

Together they make up a short reading list, if a rather familiar one, redolent of high school literature classes and expanding, if forced, to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

That’s it, we’re done — a brief tour in four books to dystopias where the individual’s sense of freedom is always under threat from the totalitarian state.

The last few months have been hard, no doubt, the news more distressing by the hour, but there is still something perversely groupthinkish in the fact that the impulse of resistance has homed in on the same book, and that a measure of opposition to the horrors of the Trump administration is the climb of “1984” to No. 1 on Amazon.

There is much in Orwell’s novel, in fact, that translates poorly into the contemporary moment. From its texture of material deprivation, the loosely packed cigarettes and boiled cabbages recalling wartime rationing in Britain, to its portrayal of Ingsoc, Big Brother and various Ministries (Truth, Peace, Love, Plenty), all of which assume control by a heavily centralized State, it is a work very much of the ’40s as experienced by an English intellectual.

In “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the American media critic Neil Postman in fact argued that Huxley’s novel was far more relevant than Orwell’s when it came to the United States, where the dominant mode of control over people was through entertainment, distraction, and superficial pleasure rather than through overt modes of policing and strict control over food supplies, at least when it came to managing the middle classes.

Three decades after Postman’s account, when we can add reality television, the internet and social media to the deadly amusements available, “Brave New World” can still seem strikingly relevant in its depiction of the relentless pursuit of pleasure.

From the use of soma as a kind of happiness drug to the erasure of the past not so much as a threat to government, as is the case in Orwell’s dystopia, but as simply irrelevant (“History is bunk”), Huxley marked out amusement and superficiality as the buttons that control

His relentless focus on the body, too, seems inspired, his understanding of what Michel Foucault identified as “biopolitics,” extending to the individual body as well as to entire populations and, in “Brave New World,” playing out as a eugenic system based on caste, class, race, looks and size.

As for his depiction of the “savage reservation” in New Mexico, this seems to foreshadow the fetishization of the natural on the part of one of the most artifice-ridden populations in the history of the world.

A great deal funnier, subtler and darker than Orwell’s book, Huxley’s satire nevertheless has its limitations.

A World State? Games of escalator squash? In any case, why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two-evils choices of electoral politics?

There are other powerful fictional dystopias that speak to the United States of today, including a significant portion of the oeuvre of Philip K. Dick and Octavia E. Butler.

There is J.G. Ballard’s hallucinatory Reagan-era “Hello America,” with a future United States that has many contending presidents, including President Manson, who plays nuclear roulette in Las Vegas.

Why not read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star” and Anna North’s “America Pacifica” and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” and Claire Vaye Watkins’s “Gold Fame Citrus” and Vanessa Veselka’s “Zazen” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife”?

If the world is going dark, we may as well read as much as possible before someone turns off the light.

 

Carson McCullers at 100: a century of American suffering

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, her debut novel of desolate southern lives, made McCullers an instant star – something she never fully recovered from

“She found me a cheap boarding house somewhere on the west side, where there, cut off and lonely, I passed the day my first book was published,” wrote Carson McCullers in her memoir Illumination and Night Glare, describing the day her classic novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was published.

Then 23, McCullers and her husband Reeves McCullers were penniless, awaiting the last portion of the advance on the book so that they, both aspiring writers, could move to New York City. Reeves had gone off to work on a boat on Nantucket island and McCullers had little premonition of the literary sensation the book would become – or how completely it would transform her life.

American author and playwright Carson McCullers, pictured around 1955.

‘Cut off and lonely’ Carson McCullers, pictured around 1955. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Turmoil was in the air that fervid summer in 1940.

Despite Roosevelt’s New Deal, the depredations of the Great Depression had sucked hope from America’s bones, birthed a generation that had only known want and that was sceptical of the possibility of change.

In small crowds around newsstands on city corners, uncertain Americans read about the war raging in Europe, but remained unsure as to whether it was “their” problem. Everyone, it seemed, wanted change and no one seemed to know how to hasten it, direct it or evaluate it. In this last sense, and possibly many more, America then was not so different from America now.

Where truth fails, fiction flourishes. In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, who would have turned 100 years old on Sunday, distilled all of these consternations, enabling in literature the self-reckoning that had been avoided in reality. Set in a southern mill town much like her own Columbus, Georgia, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter traces the hapless lives of five townspeople, all of whom are inexplicably drawn to a deaf-mute named John Singer.

There is the young Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who dreams of making it big; Biff Bannon, the middle-class owner of a local cafe; Jake Blount, the most overtly political character and Dr Benedict Copeland, the town’s African American doctor who rails against the inequities of a racist society, but is helpless against them. As they all interact with Singer, they fail to notice his pain or that he is mourning a loss of his own: the banishment of his friend Spiros Antonapoulos to an insane asylum.

It is a mad mix, but also an ingenious one. Some, like critic Nancy Rich, writing a decade after McCullers’s death in 1967, have declared it a political parable. Singer represents government and its ineffectuality, the vague dimensions of his character permitting the projections of all the rest. It’s a sad little bunch, each an iteration of the insoluble problems of that time: race, inequality, gutless conformity and the apathy of a silent and self-centred majority.

Can all of this come together to make up a country, a polity? The answer seemed elusive then, as it is in the US’s riven present, but The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter posed the questions, presented the problem.

McCullers was rewarded for her ingenuity. The glamour of becoming an overnight literary phenomenon brought with it new and famous friends – among them a Swiss heiress whose face, McCullers declared, “would haunt her for the rest of her life”. Not long after the book’s publication, McCullers moved in to the famous February House: a Brooklyn brownstone that became a salon and refuge for a gaggle of literary celebrities.

Parking her husband elsewhere – he had blossomed into an alcoholic – McCullers became housemates with the likes of WH Auden, Salvador Dali, Harper’s Bazaar editor George Davis and burlesque performer and author Gypsy Rose Lee.

The war had not yet begun, but McCullers had arrived. Everyone wanted to know her, to talk to her, to live with her. All the magazines – Harper’s, the New Yorker, Story and scores of others who had once rejected her work – now clamoured to see what she would produce next.

Great success births great expectations and it may well have been this burden that shattered McCullers. She kept writing, but none of her ensuing works would parallel the acclaim of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Some would be painful disappointments. Her second novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye, was set in a military base in peacetime and toyed with voyeurism and implied homosexuality.

While eagerly awaited, it met the fate of many second novels and was deemed an unworthy successor of a brilliant first. McCullers’ health also failed; the afflictions of her youth, among them misdiagnosed rheumatic fever, left her susceptible to strokes that eventually paralysed her. The writer could write no more but she persevered, dictating her autobiography until, in August 1967, the last stroke killed her. She was only 50 years old.

The glib and ruthless pronouncements of her lost literary genius were likely not an easy burden to bear. The pages of McCullers’ unfinished memoir are laden with accounts of her associations with celebrities (including Marilyn Monroe) – a small antidote, perhaps, to the torment of being labelled a one-hit wonder.

The sharp girl who had cast such an unforgiving eye on the world around her became a woman imprisoned by her own initial success and her inability to replicate it. The transformation from an outsider who cast her acid gaze on ordinary America and squeezed from it caustic truths, to a member of New York’s literati, came at too dear a price.

McCullers, who had so adeptly captured the desolation of her moment and constructed from a grim reality a distinctly American political parable, was left a famous author but a lesser writer.

 

The 63 differences between British and American English

Posted 3 days ago by Jessica Brown

America and Britain have a lot more in common than their special relationship. Remember when our leaders held hands that one time?

One thing that’s vastly different though, is how we implement the English language.

It was perhaps best summed up by the comedy god Eddie Izzard:

 

Here’s the infographic, put together by Grammar Check.

3d326a5100000578-4226540-image-a-17-1487155280247.jpg

Picture: Grammar Check

 

Some are obvious, like autumn and fall, but others are a lesser known – such as cooker and stove, lorry and truck and queue and line.

 

3d326a5100000578-4226540-image-a-16-1487155271152.jpg

Picture: Grammar Check

 

Memorise (or memorize) these before any holidays to one country or the other in order to avoid any confusion – because there’s a lot of potential for that to happen.

Then you can sit and enjoy your biscuits/cookies in the privacy of your rented flat/apartment after you’ve hit the pavements/sidewalks and visited the shops/stores.

 

3d326a5100000578-4226540-image-a-15-1487155232392.jpg

Picture: Grammar Check

 


More: The difference between the US and UK – in 20 photos

 


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