Sunday, February 22, 2015

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Willpower Management, Creative Energy, and Productivity Morale

Ooph.  Productivity.  And I'm writing this post why? 

Productivity scares me as a topic.  It's this ethereal, unmeasurable thing that we all aspire to do more of without fully comprehending what it is.  When we're doing it, we feel it.  We have a sense of satisfaction at the end of each day. When we're not doing it, we sense the fatigue.  Sometimes we are doing it, and have resigned ourselves to the fact that being highly fatigued is a part of being highly productive.

Then again, haven't we all seen those people who go to sleep satisfied and feeling accomplished, but in our eyes they've accomplished nothing at all?  Then we second-guess our own habits, wondering if we really are getting things done or if we're just psyching ourselves out.  I'm going to show some of my personal implementations of these thoughts next week, but I wanted to write this post while these topics were VERY fresh on my mind.

I've found that two things tend to be most true when it comes to my high intuitive/creative friends and their projects and goals.

1.)  They feel productive in the wrong way.

They're productive, and know they're highly productive, but feel like their 'real goals' or objectives get further and further away from becoming a reality.

This could be an entertainment project like a film, a book project, or video game, or it could be personal aspirations for emotional success like finding a spouse, mastering a a skill, or achieving new health goals.

2.)  They don't feel productive at all.

This might be true, it might not.  They feel like they're busy, they fill their days and don't have enough time to actually move things forward, personally or professionally.  Maybe they don't even want to move forward, they just want to catch up. It's a weird cosmic void that they live in of self-loathing and then helplessness against the prevailing currents of life.

The snowball effect goes both ways. Winding up productivity and winding down productivity not only change the temperature of your professional and personal ambitions, they adjust the thermostat.  

What I have learned. 

I don't have productivity solutions.  My productive life is much like a slinky.   Moment by moment, I am starting new projects, reopening old projects, and abandoning projects. I may have a ton of momentum, but I have to transfer that momentum into the next project or the slinky stops.

I don't have an employer.  I have clients for my small production company, and I do the occasional freelance gig outside the scope of what my business offers, and I try to stay always outside my comfort zone with new projects that stretch my boundaries.

As a result, I don't have a boss to be accountable to.  I don't work certain hours.  I am responsible for 100% of my productivity, and more importantly, 100% of my 'productivity morale'.  This means that my day is completely at my mercy, and simultaneously, my morale is completely at the mercy of my day.

Here are a few things I've learned as a result.

#1.  Momentum is Rare and Sacred

Once you have productive momentum, guard it with your life.  It will run out, don't expect it to be eternal.  But it is something you should expect to come and go at a predictable rhythm.  Don't try to keep it going forever, or beat yourself up if it dies, but definitely understand that each 'momentum' cycle can be stoked and maintained, so that it lives longer each time you catch it.  Keeping momentum isn't about making sure every single day is filled with wall-to-wall exhaustive productivity.  It's about making sure that once you catch a feeling of productivity, you don't go celebrate;  instead, plug in just as much effort as the day before.  Don't burn yourself out, but go do it again.  Repeat the productive process.  You can celebrate once the 'harvest season' is over.   Which brings me to my next point.

#2.  Know your Seasons.  

Maybe this isn't as true for a nine to five situation.  But for freelancers and creatives, it's really important that though you need to do work every day, the TYPE of work you need to do is going to change a lot.  And for some of us, the season is very different and takes a very different type of energy.  For me, certain 'seasons' naturally draw and feed me energy in a perpetual loop.  I could do creative meetings 'blowing up' potential projects all day long.  Spinning up new ideas with new characters, challenges, markets, etc, are fantastic.  And live events.  Working through the emotional arcs of a live event is a blast.  I could do it day after day.  Production budgets?  Accounting?  Invoicing clients?  Navigating terms of a deal?  I find myself drained for days after just one day focused on budgets.  This radically reduces my 'productivity morale'.  I feel like I accomplished little in comparison to the amount of energy it took, and I have no energy leftover to do the things that I normally love doing.  My productivity morale is at an all time low, if I'm not careful.

What does this mean?  It means I need to anticipate the way I'm going to spend my emotional energy on certain projects.  Ironically, it means I need to 'budget' my creative energy, and make sure that I don't do budget work at the beginning of the week before needing to do a lot of other high energy projects.  Instead, projects that drain my 'productivity morale' should be planned near intense play time.

Tip:  Make a list of the types of work you do, then 'rank them' based on how much 'productivity morale' they leave you with after you're done, and how much 'creative energy' they take to complete.  Projects that take a great deal of creative energy but leave you with low productivity morale, are big scary demons trying to kill your productive life.

#3.  Write Everything Down.

Not some fancy schmancy organized list.  And I mean it, write everything down.  Things you're thinking, things you want to do.  Things you HAVE to do.  The next immediate action step towards every goal, project, or idea you might have.  Your questions.  Your answers.  Things you never want to do.

Just start writing things everywhere.  Because the brain is linear in it's thinking model, 'mind mapping' or just putting things to paper allows your mind to form reality out of abstracts by connecting dots between 'two thoughts at one time'.  Paper extends the power of your brain by adding 'RAM' to your computer.  By adding newly available, randomly accessible memories to your thinking power.  But not only does it make abstracts a reality before your eyes, it allows you to derive abstracts from reality.  By writing down ten real problems, your mind can suddenly seek patterns in your problems, and derive an abstract conclusion.

I've explained a thousand times that it's not what  you write, it's the simple fact that you are writing everything that makes list making a powerful tool.  If you have to process everything into tidy little details first, you probably won't start.  Especially if it takes a lot of creative energy to do this.  (note:  if you gain tons of productive morale from detailed listmaking, you'll enjoy this process more than others;  but don't forget the importance of making messy lists too.  Those will unlock secrets you don't know you have lurking around in your task lists.  Being too tidy can keep your problems from manifesting on paper, which is one of the best areas to tackle them.)

#4.  Willpower is Finite

I'm going to do a full list of books to recommend on the topic of productivity.  It's a lot shorter than you'd think.  There are a handful (five or so) books that are radically transforming in terms of understanding productivity and fully utilizing your energy.  Books filled with tools to transform every aspect of your being into productivity perfection.  Unfortunately, with these, you're fighting an uphill battle.  Because most of them involve complex systems that require energy and willpower to integrate, on top of requiring will power and energy to complete tasks within those systems.

But a book that forever transformed my understanding of what Willpower is, where it comes from, and how to manage it, is called (wait for it!) Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. The book is far more than you'd expect from a science writer and psychologist, and I promise you won't regret reading it.

#5.  Life is a Highway

Thinking of your life as a highway with multiple lanes is important.  You can be on any lane at almost any time... but you can't be on two lanes at the same time.  If you're working on one project, you're not working on another.

Yes, you can manage multiple projects.  But you can't do multiple projects.  In fact, you really can't even do one project.  You can only do tasks-  drive a mile- on any given project at any given time.  And it's important to make sure you finish the mile on one task before switching lanes.  I have tried to constantly switch lanes on my projects, but much like traffic, it's the illusion that other lanes are going faster.   Sure enough, traffic can stop in any lane, and you may need to switch to another to get out of a traffic jam.  But when all lanes are stalled, just stay with it until you break through.  Or pull off and get lunch.  Traffic will be flowing again when you get back on the highway.

Just know how far you're going today, and don't take the exit until you've driven far enough to meet your goals.  If you don't, you'll go to bed with the 'unfinished lane' in your head, which will slowly whittle away from your productive morale, and you'll start the next day depleted of the creative energy you need to get back on the highway.  Leave yourself in a place where your productive morale grows while you recover, instead of being drained.

Next Week!

More on this later.  More specifically, a book list that has 'made it all possible' for me in terms of creative productivity, and a 'where are they now?' post about what has happened with HeuMoore Productions, my personal projects, and my family in the course of the last five years.  That's right.  I'm gonna be blogging like it's 2004, people.  The days when I still had to explain what a blog was to my friends.  Yeah.  That 2004.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Witchcraft, Lunatics, and Radicals

I am a fan of the work of Alan Turing, a British Mathematician and Cryptologist.  Creation of non-linear thought power and intelligent machines began under his genius (and the collected genius of many other mathematicians and inventors) during WW2, and eventually became what we know as 'computers'.  There's an exceptional film about this on the market right now, called 'The Imitation Game,' which tells his life story.

I liked the film enough to make a facebook cover image paying homage to him.  The image is of the 'Turing Machine,' the quote however, is original.

It reads, "You are surrounded at this very moment by countless inanimate luxuries, most of which were ridiculed, condemned, even feared such as the device you're reading this on right now.  Airplanes, radio, cell phones, computers, the internet, credit cards - all Witchcraft to the masses of yesteryear.  Imagine Harder. Imagine Bigger.  Imagine the Unimaginable, and remember:  Your entire life was once the imagination of a few insane radicals.  Be like the radicals, not like their critics."

Also on my facebook, a discussion about tools, multipliers, and how things will continue to accelerate in terms of technological and social advancement.

"It's a simple miracle of multiplied human effort that multiple gallons of gas requires an hours worth of labor, in dollars. Same as it did 25 years ago. (Thanks capitalism! If I had to go get that gasoline myself with manual labor, instead of currency, it would take far more than an hour) But now you can fit a calculator, camcorder, a supercomputer, dictation machine, walkman, GPS navigation system, atlas (those two were separate products in 1990), an entire library of every book published before 1900, every arcade on the planet, a radio, a walk talky, a television, calendars, photo albums, all on a credit card sized piece of glass that fits in your pocket. It's so cheap that if it breaks, you don't hire a technician, you throw it away and buy a new one.  Technology begets technology as well, and implementation is rapid.  Technology offering more features at a lower price, means more people using technology.  And more technology in the hands of more people, means more dollars flowing through technology, and more information as well, making that technology EVEN MORE valuable.

Most Americans for 15 bucks can have a breakfast that a king could not have had 100 years ago. And their kids own technology that presidents, princes, and billionaires could not have purchased 25 years ago. A month's worth of labor now purchases access to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of actual wealth, and billions of dollars worth of 1990s technological wealth. In my lifetime, gas went from 1.20 to 4 dollars. Technology went from millions to a few hundred bucks.

And this wealth was created and developed by corporations. Somebody complains because this year a CEO makes 350 million dollars as head of some technology group. But a CEO making 350 million dollars 25 years ago would have given every cent of it to have your used iPhone 4. A king in Europe 100 years ago would have given his kingdom to own what every American can acquire on a minimum wage job.

Wealth is compounding at unimaginable rates."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reflections on 2014

Many things strike you in the course of a year.  Either in their significance eternally, or of their significance temporally.

A few of my reflections on 2014 are important to me.  I started this blog in 2004.  Over ten years ago.  It's amazing how much the world has been rocked in that period of time, and how much I have been rocked in that period of time.  I look back at posts over the years and squirm at my brash, naive confidence.  Looking back at who I was and what I endorsed, is almost painful.  But more on that later.  For now, some things I found just in the course of 2014.

#1.  No two loves are equal.

Either qualitatively or quantitatively, love comes in a highly specific way.  Not superior.  Not inferior.  But different.  Unique.   And with that love, come responsibilities, blessings, and burdens, each as unique in it's qualitative and quantitative requirements as the love it accompanies.

Love does not drain you by emptying you into another person;  it fits you like a key, which unlocks the fullest potential of your soul to care for another person selflessly.  Love is a superpower made possible by the way another person fits us.  And when we both unlock that superhuman capacity to pour selflessly into one-another, it's a match made in heaven.

#2.  Love can be one-sided.

Much in the way Christ loved the Church or that a Woman loves her Child, the ability to give 100% of yourself in a way that never returns you anything worthy of that sacrifice, love is gift that trains the heart to know, "I am not my own."

#3.  Love requires pain, because love requires growth.

Growth is painful, growth can't always be measured, and sometimes growth is forced upon us.  But growth amplifies our capacity for love, and love requires growth to exist.  Love cannot be stagnant.

#4.  Love sometimes creates hate.

Love is a constantly escalating force.  When that force continues to escalate, it creates hatred for it's inverse.  For instance, love of healthy eating means staying away from junk food.  Eventually, if that love of health escalates, hatred for junk food will escalate.  It becomes something you despise.

While hatred does not create love, love will with time eventually create hatred for the opposite.

This is significant, because when we find out somebody is not who we believed they were, but we love them, it can create a confused pain.  Hating the one we love, because of what we loved about them.

#5.  Honesty is the child of Love

Dishonesty is distrust, ironically.  It's putting distance between yourself and whomever you're deceiving.  It's holding something back.  When you share the truth with somebody, you're conjoining your realities.  When there is a chasm of realities, there will be a chasm of desires, intentions, and ultimately, futures.

Honesty means forcing the realities together, even if it means hurting someone.  The only reason for this conjoined reality is true love.

#6.  Love is truly a spirit

Love will not be confined to age, color, gender, tribe, politics, or numbers.  Love, like the AI in Spike Jonze' Her, multiplies and grows in it's capacity with every new connection.  Don't hide from that which will make you grow.  Don't hide from that which will make you honest.  Don't hide from that which will make you sacrifice, or become unique, or even to have new passions.  Embrace it, and swiftly.

That's all for now.  I hope to revisit this old habit again soon.  I'd like to post soon about what I've been up to since the start of Ace Wonder, and answer some questions people might have had about my career and life in the last two years.  :-)

~ John.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

No Gaps - Team Leadership for 2013

(There's only one God ma'am - and he doesn't dress like that!)

Patriot Academy 2012 taught all of the fundamentals of leadership that it always does, and better than ever. It also taught the foundational principles of law and government that built this nation, as it always has. But in 2012 I learned something new about leadership. A lesson that is so simple, so obvious, and yet often overlooked; A lesson that was ultimately proven in the elections of 2008 and 2012, both nationally and locally.

The lesson was this -

Leadership is a Team Sport. To effectively lead communities, counties, states, nations, and the world, we have to become effective leaders, in effective leadership teams.

Frances Hesselbein had this to say; "Organizations exist to make people's strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.  And this is the work of effective leaders."  Organizations- teams, really—have the power to eliminate holes.  It's like in Rocky, when he's talking about Adrian.  "I got gaps.  She's got gaps.  Together, we got no gaps!"  

I wish Christians were saying this for each other more often.

Americans, and most notably American leadership, have started focusing on individualism instead of organizational or team leadership. As a result, we have started following a pageant model for vetting our leaders. This attracts a certain type of narcissist to the leadership spotlight and encourages a 'king of the hill' mentality of leadership—kicking others down in an effort to reach the top of the human pyramid.  We need to think of leadership as a pillar that fully assumes the weight and responsibility of those in our coalitions.

In 2008 and 2012, (and in every election, really), we've seen two models of leadership represented. One was individualistic and had a clear anthem through the primaries. 'Unless I win, nobody wins.' This detracted from the credibility of everybody in that team, even those who were willing team players. The winners were those who, on the other team, chose to edify each other, praise the strengths and cover for weaknesses, and ultimately serve each other in a team capacity.

Capable leaders are those who lead in packs, who lead toward a cause instead of toward a spotlight. When you're one of the Knights who defend Camelot, you learn to cover the blind side of your brothers in arms. John Maxwell says, “Teams share the credit for victories, and the blame for losses. This fosters genuine humility and authentic community. Individuals take credit and blame alone. This fosters pride and often times, a sense of failure.”

In 2013 commit to being a team player. Commit to loving your teammates and loving your cause, instead of loving the stage or the spotlight. Commit to playing for keeps, commit to playing for each other, and commit to playing for the other leaders you work with.

Here are some principles of Team Leadership to carry into 2013:

1.) Team work divides the effort and multiplies the effect.

This means as a team player, you will look for ways to divide the effort with the leaders around you. Look for ways to lift the load from them. This won't just divide the effort, it will invariably multiply their effect, and yours as well.

2.) Individuals play the game; Teams win championships.

Play the game, and play hard, but stop to think once in a while, 'How does this contribute to or hinder the team around me?' If you see a pattern of individualism in your projects, you may want to start asking leaders how your efforts can cross-promote or contribute to their efforts. This is the only way you and your team can win the championship. You don't have to be carrying the ball to help move it down the field.

3.) Friendly fire kills you just as dead as enemy fire. 

As tempting as it may be to shoot down somebody for having a slightly dissenting opinion, that energy is just as damaging to those in your coalition as an attack from the outside. In fact, it's more damaging. Because when the world looks for leadership, they won't trust a team if the players don't trust each other. Ask yourself if you have a habit of friendly fire, and make note of how damaging it is when you're fired upon.

4.) “Ask not what your teammates can do for you, ask what you can do for your teammates!”

This was how an NBA star paraphrased the famous quote by JFK. His comment applies right back to healing communities and building nations. A team wins games locally first, then regionally, before going to state and ultimately national championship playoffs. How is this different when it comes to solving the crises that face our country? Remember that by serving the team locally, you're serving the whole team; that includes you. When you move your community forward, you gain the necessary credibility for all of the leaders in your team to move the nation forward.

5.) Teams win daily – Not in a day.

John Maxwell's 'Law of Process' from his bestseller, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership says it all—“Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day.” My Dad often quotes, 'Success would be easy, if it wasn't so daily.' The simple fact is this: winning as part of a team is a daily project that doesn't happen in a day.

Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was built daily. Nations can't be mended in a single day, but there is no nation that can't be mended through daily action of coalitions and individuals, applying themselves to the principles and laws of national prosperity.

As you may have guessed, national prosperity can't happen without local victories from teams committed to national success. A team is greater than the sum of all its talents, and you will be able to accomplish more by playing for the team than you will by fighting for your individual spotlight.

The New Commandment

Christ said it best, of course, when he paused his disciples and delivered this charge: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

You got gaps. I got gaps. Together we got no gaps. Let's storm the beaches of 2013 and beyond, and take the hill together.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Brilliant Use of Nostalgia

I'm a sucker for a good commercial, as many of you may recall.

This particular video displays a fantastic use of nostalgia, cinematography, color grading, casting, and direction. Most importantly, it brilliantly connects with the target market. It resonates with the audience in a powerful way, associating the car with their childhood themes. The opening shot uses motion and coloring intentionally identical to some of the famous shots from the original trilogy. It's really quite charming!

There are some other noteworthy elements in this video. In this seemingly insignificant 'corporate' project, the director uses creative storytelling to portray his view of family interaction, childhood fantasy, what middle class American families look like (car, house, appliances, pets), fatherhood, and much more. Is the little character a boy or a girl? We never see a sister, despite seeing the dog twice, the mom twice, the dad twice, and the Vader character in almost every shot. We do however, (at 0:20) see Vader in a pink room with dolls. Does a sister exist? The director is connecting with his audience, and carefully uses expressions of color, set design/props, and body language, to communicate volumes.

Question: If you had to make a 60 second film with no spoken dialog and without showing the face of your lead actor, could you communicate as much as this commercial about childhood, parenting, and American life?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Keep your powder dry! Moore Family 2010

Dear friends...

Thank you for helping to make 2010 such a blessed year. We feel like 2011 will be a year 'set apart' for God's glory and His working in the lives of the Moore family. We've started to see that in 2010. Our prayer for 2011 is that we as a nation would learn to follow the Lord's leading and that he would make our way prosperous and heal our land. He is faithful. God Bless you all and keep your powder dry! ~ Jeff Moore

Monday, November 22, 2010

Production Design by Johnny Reighard

Johnny Reighard has been a part of the HeuMoore team since 2007. Not much is required to be a HeuMoorian these days... Just a pleasing personality, good character, and slavishly hard work. That last part has occupied Johnny's time on Ace Wonder more so than almost anyone else.

At any rate, Johnny has posted on his blog an introductory bit regarding production design. I think you'll like it.

"Within film production hierarchy, there is a trinity; not holy, but pretty awesome: director, cinematographer and production designer. The director presents his vision to the two department heads. The production designer supervises what is to be photographed, while the cinematographer deals with how to photograph it. Although creativity must be allowed, it must be based on the director's vision; that's especially important when the director is also the writer, as in my case. I defer to him for the most part, because I respect his authority in this area. However, if I believe I have a better visual idea, I allow my thoughts to come to his attention through the opening of my mouth."

To read the rest of the post, click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ace Wonder Sneak Preview at SAICFF

Ace Wonder played at SAICFF to a long standing ovation and rave reviews from the crowd. We are blessed to see how the film, even in it's early stages, communicates to an audience.

Glory be to God! The reality of this little film is that the few families who made The Widow's Might, came together again to pour their hearts and souls into the effort. I think the effort shows. I think it shows promise of a future film industry, and promise of a future where families honor Christ on the silver screen. A future where film sets are not helter-skelter 'managed disasters' (as one producer aptly described them) but as centers of personal and family reformation. Hard work is sanctifying, and family life is sanctifying.
A film set can honor the Lord and combine hard work and family life, for one of the most sanctifying experiences available.

HeuMoore Productions can't promise successful films or popular stories, but we can promise to honor the Lord with the family life on our sets. So many times we allow ourselves to be swept into the whirlwind that is production, and in our efforts to achieve complex theological goals, we ignore the basics. It's my contention that a venture which compromises family life, is a venture that compromises the gospel. It's a venture that compromises the core of our faith. It's a venture that is unlawful.

Let's begin a dialog of reformation; reformation of production models, reformation of hiring and labor, reformation of film sets. It's time that we reject the conventional models of business, collaboration, and production, and begin pursuing the right models of business, collaboration, and production. Our God is a Lord of the details. We can't honor him with strange fires or conventional 'common sense' methods, simply because we have good intentions.

At any rate, that was a bit of detour. The long story short is that we have a long road ahead of us in the completion of Ace Wonder, and we covet your prayers. Be prepared for some great news in how you can support and be a part of the Ace Wonder production, and see the film before it's release next year. I'm thrilled, I think you will be too.

If you haven't seen them yet, check out these two teasers for the Ace Wonder film. If you have seen them, share them on your blog, on Facebook, on Twitter; spread the word. Thanks for all your support, and we look forward to the future. It is very, very bright!

~ In Christ, John.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival 2010

If you have never been to the San Antonio Christian Filmmakers Academy and Film Festival, you need to put it in your schedule for next year. I was surprised and delighted with the Academy and Festival this year, and the buzz on the streets is that this has been one of the best (if not THE best) year in the history of SAICFF.

The teaching at the Academy was brilliant. Earnest, enthusiastic, and exciting, yet sober, timely, and piercing. More on the whole even later, for now, a few photos from the Ace Wonder screening.

(photos courtesy of Vision Forum Ministries, Peter Serven, and Jeremiah Warren.)