Archives For Inspiration

Have you ever wanted to browse through the things one person cares about? Now you can.

For the past 17 years, pretty much every day, I’ve taken the things that flow by that are worth remembering and woven them into a giant concept map, using an app called TheBrain. I happen to have been a stop on the company’s first press tour 17 years ago. The moment I saw it, I realized that the way it looked on-screen was the way thoughts looked in my head — more or less.

So I started using TheBrain then, not knowing that this many years later I would be happily weaving more things into that same Brain file. At this point, there are more than a quarter million nodes in my Brain (called Thoughts), linked by more than 440,000 links. All entered by hand, the same way you would add a bookmark to your browser.

ipad-2048x1536-v04Now my Brain data is available as an iOS app, which means it’s portable and convenient. You can find it in the Apple Store here (link will launch iTunes; Android is a couple months away).

It’s an absolute hoot to see your face on an icon on someone’s home screen. It made me reflect also on how the rest of the app icons are inert and abstract: you never get the sense of a person behind them. Here you do, and I love it.

I’ve created a Facebook group for conversations about this Brain; you can read this post for more background. And please be in touch with your reactions and wishes. This is the start of a collaborative web of ideas and relationships that should just get better over time.

Upward spiral

Jerry —  November 13, 2011 — Leave a comment

About a year ago, I watched two videos within days of each other. Their cumulative effect gave me an important aha! moment.

The first was recommended by Arthur Brock during a really interesting conversation. He warned me that the video quality was poor, and boy, is it ever: picture bad VHS with weak sound, and the content is a bearded fellow who is waxing philosophically about nature. I almost tuned out, till I tuned in. Then I started hearing how Paul Krafel went around the Northern California hills near his home with a trowel and some awesome groundrules, which helped him heal the landscapes with simple, steady effort. Here’s that video.

The second video I happened across a few days later. It was a ten-minute segment of an hour-long documentary about the Loess Plateau, a part of inland China the size of Belgium and composed primarily of a fertile but very erosive soil called Loess.

The documentarian, John Liu, visited this area over a ten-year period. At the start, the area is dusty and brown; its residents are poor and leaving. Then, at a scale completely different from Paul Krafel, the local government uses principles similar to Krafel’s to heal the countryside. Here’s the whole documentary, so you can see for yourself how that story ends.

Seeing the second film got me to understand the first. Both together got me thinking two big things:

  1. What are the groundrules they were using, and can they be generalized?
  2. What would it be like to work in the world that way all the time? To create upward spirals wherever you go?
That’s the inspiration for this notion of Upward Spiral, which we’ll be revisiting here often.
Then I started noticing more initiatives like those that had inspired me.

Lessons from Wikipedia

Jerry —  July 3, 2011 — 6 Comments

Remember the monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Wikipedia is a bit like that. Seemingly overnight, this gleaming monolithic being has sprouted in our midst.

It’s the seventh most viewed site? It has over 3.6 million pages in English? All done without venture capital? Crazy!

Wikipedia tells us a few things about where we are as a society. Here’s my take; I’d love to hear yours.

Many thanks to Jay Cross for the video work!

Why I do what I do

Jerry —  June 2, 2011 — 6 Comments

Consider this a medium-length answer to Tony Deiffel‘s marvelous question, wdydwyd?

It’s also an opinion on how to handle information overflow.

Throw in a dash of meditation on life, history and where we are now. See for yourself.

In the video, I mention Leibniz, Yin and Yang, Leonard Shlain’s book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess and Big History.

All sorts of gratitude to Jean Russell for the camera work.

Venessa Miemis and Gabriel Shalom recently interviewed a bunch of people concerned with what money is and where it might be going (including me). The result is a quick, useful, vibrant tour of how society sees wealth, value and the mechanisms for making those concepts useful in the world — today and on the horizon.

The Future of Money from KS12 on Vimeo.

One of my highlights at the Economist’s recent Ideas Economy conference in Berkeley was Martin Giles’ interview of Ed Catmull, Pixar’s co-founder and president. I was struck by how deep and deft Catmull’s understanding of personal and group dynamics is, as well as how unobtrusive his ego is.

Pixar has had a phenomenal run of movies, but it might not have gone that way as early as Toy Story 2. How Catmull managed that process is a fascinating story.

You can see some of this expertise in this talk Catmull gave in 2007. Fortunately, The Economist has published the more recent interview on its site (albeit without a permalink yet), so I’ll share it with you here:

Launch inspiration

Jerry —  April 1, 2010 — 2 Comments

We’re starting something here with REX. It may be significant. Let’s take a moment, draw a deep breath, and ponder a few pieces of Net-based miraculousness as a form of meditation. Herewith, four pieces of inspiration:

An easy, commercial lift. Cheesy, but heartwarming.

A miracle of sorts. How did Kutiman find the time to blend all these?

Pay close attention. Wesch is chronicling the change of our times.

Back to earth. One tune, many players. Beautiful.