By Andy Weddington
Monday, 09 October 2017
I know you are taking it in the teeth, but the first guy through the wall ... he always gets bloody ... always. (Henry to Beane in the film Moneyball)
Some months ago a friend who owns a successful company - with interests and operations coast-to-coast and beyond - outlined a stymieing problem in one sector of the business.
In short, a capitalist through and through, he came up with a clever way to save customers big money.
But for that problem - bureaucracy.
My bottom line take?
His way would end some other (inefficient, outdated) way that's putting money, and perhaps not entirely legitimately, in the pockets of others.
That is, he's a threat.
Though some first blush angles of attack came to mind, I have been thinking still about the problem.
Bureaucracy, as it is, cannot be defeated with conventional warfare.
Nor necessarily with common sense and better business practices.
Well, examples abound if only paying attention and figuring out how to relevantly apply.
Let's start at the top.
He uses Twitter.
He uses Twitter to the chagrin of many who believe it behavior (mostly for choice of content) not Presidential.
But what is President Trump really doing?
For one thing he is changing the office of the President.
He is speaking not infrequently before teleprompter from podium but daily, sometimes hourly, to the people.
He is pressing his message directly.
He is not speaking through the media filter - whose agenda is not our President's agenda.
And he, the first guy through the wall, is getting bloody.
A fabulously successful businessman, bloody is nothing new to him.
Personally, I appreciate our President's use of Twitter.
Bottom line: Like my coffee, I prefer my political news and current events pressed not filtered (especially through soiled underwear - today's media).
After eight years of a President who aggressively uses Twitter, our next President either adapts and uses Twitter (or some such means) or dies.
Last week I visited with a college student on Fall break home visiting her family.
Politics we did not talk.
She told me about her struggles with chemistry.
I listened. Sympathetically. Chemistry not my forte.
I offered two statements for her to think about ...
1. The word is not the thing.
2. The map is not the territory.
There was not time for more than cursory explanation so I suggested she read 'Semantics and Communication' by John C. Condon.
Forty years ago that book and Dr. Thomas Tedford made sense of the world I'd been seeing for the previous 20 years but was unable to make sense of - whatsoever.
I told the student the perspective of that book is reality - that I have applied daily these past forty years (not so much chemistry or biology). And still learn during at least annual reads; as reminder.
She wrote down the title and author. As did others in our small coffee group. My parting advice - do not read as light entertainment but in small bites (digest and consider).
What's the point?
The field of General Semantics is about seeing reality - which is typically not the conventional (polluted) perspective taught and learned to see.
People who understand and apply principles, knowingly or not, thereof are the ones first through the wall. And bloodied.
More to chemistry momentarily.
Fourteen years ago I read a book that complements the ideas of General Semantics.
Still that book is part of my thinking.
Moneyball - by Michael Lewis.
In short, Mr. Lewis tells the story of how Billy Beane (Oakland Athletics manager) applied the perspective of Bill James (baseball enthusiast and statistician) to rethinking the bureaucracy of building a baseball team.
It was a battle.
Six years ago the book was made into a movie.
I've lost count how many times seen.
That it's a terrific entertaining film aside, it's packed with lessons of General Semantics - the word is not the thing and the map is not the territory.
Each time I see something subtle missed. Or have a deeper appreciation and understanding.
I saw the movie last week.
Near the end John Henry (Arliss Howard), owner of the Boston Red Sox, says to Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) that the first guy through the wall always gets bloody. Always.
That comment in regard to Beane's unorthodox approach to building the winning A's but unable to win the last game of the season.
Mr. Henry, a visionary, wants Beane to manage the Sox.
What's the point?
Seeing what essentially all others did not and not accepting anything less than implementation despite determined resistance.
My wife likes red wine. Pinot Noir, particularly.
Her palette is as sophisticated as the bottle's label is eye-catching and pretty.
Which goes to the idea in capitalism that everything is marketing. Everything!
To that a few weeks ago I was approached about a project - to create cover art for a CD.
I asked if there was a concept? Broad ideas in mind? Any restrictions? Etc.
Mostly the guidance revolved around blocks and the number 2 with a chemistry connection.
I thought about it. A lot. And sketched out an idea. Then painted, from imagination, a large acrylic.
It was a hit.
Though strong and eye-catching, it bothered me. It was conventional. The problem kept me awake at night. And preoccupied nearly all thinking day in and day out.
On iPad, hours and hours and hours tinkering - to simplify complexity. To see the problem differently.
Back to the studio.
The tinkering led to a large oil atop a painting that was not working. A concept. A completely new direction.
Photographed and back to iPad.
Dozens and dozens and dozens of designs. Other completely different ideas, too.
But my eye kept going back to the oil painting.
It was not only eye-catching but grabbing without letting go.
So I kept after it.
Finally, the solution. The selling "wine label."
Last evening came word the band, unanimously, loves it.
Mind now at ease.
To get to the unusual design, through the wall necessary. Bloody.
The CD scheduled for release in 2018.
Sales, at least in part, will foretell if I did my job; to catch the eye and open the wallet and purse.
For about two years now I've returned to something enjoyed in youth - picking a 5-string banjo.
But now my approach completely different. Not so much am I interested in the traditional bluegrass.
Never formally schooled in music, I have been teaching myself theory but through the facets of General Semantics and, if you will, Moneyball.
Rather than by ear and rote memory of tabulature picking, I am putting together unusual chord patterns in sundry keys resulting in sounds not typical (at least in bluegrass proper).
Music - to my ears. And the approach affords more freedom in picking (akin to improv jazz).
Where's it going?
Could it be the next big sound in music?
No idea. And not my decision. But not knowing, formally, much about music is playing to my great advantage.
There's a wall to conquer.
It's a good kind of bloody.
So back to the beginning and my friend's business problem ...
Remedy has not occurred to me - yet.
But I am convinced that somewhere within the realm of General Semantics; Moneyball; atypical simple design (in painting and music); and more is the answer - to winning.
I've suggested he read Mr. Condon's book. I don't know if tackled to date or not.
Last week I suggested he watch Moneyball. And more than once.
Then we talk.
In the end, what is getting through any wall, however bloodied?