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New Tech Blog: Max On Media
Max On Media is a technology-based blog written by Burke Liburt. Burke Liburt is the co-founder and CMO of SynchroPET, a biomedical device company that has licensed patented nuclear imaging technologies from Brookhaven National Laboratories. He has developed marketing strategies at television groups (Dun & Bradstreet/ ABC Television) and at his own multi-media company. Read Max On Media Now!
Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

LIVING Innovatively Is the POINT! (or what ELSE did you learn all this FOR?)

Sep 20 2016

The most helpful topic for an Innovation Center blog would seem to be examining whether innovativeness can be instilled in people the way installing computer programs enables us to do different things, and if so, how is it downloaded, or learned?  Is there a single Skill Set underpinning all the other attributes that are identifiable in the majority of innovators, short of the few savants floating around, and even there?  Do innovations like the light bulb and Internet arise out of nowhere, or evolve as species do: putting similar things together again and again, and how is that done?  

“The winter drove them mad.  It drove every man mad who had ever lived through it; there was only the question of degree.  The sun disappeared, and you could not leave the tunnels, and everything and everyone you loved was ten thousand miles away. At best, a man suffered from strange lapses in judgment and perception, finding himself at the mirror about to comb his hair with a mechanical pencil, stepping into his undershirt, boiling up a pot of concentrated orange juice for tea…  And few among the wives and families of the men who returned from a winter on the Ice would have said that what they got back was identical to what they had sent down there.”

                                    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon, p. 437


The same could be said of being in college.  You tend to get wrapped up in what you’ve got your mind set on doing, largely isolated within a relatively small circle of people.  You have classmates galore, but they might as well not be there, for all practical purposes.  They’re just in your way, getting in and out from behind desk chairs and in the halls.  Allowing the challenges surrounding you to carry you along of their own volition is inescapable.  If the excerpt above leads you to venture further into the novel, you may find yourself identifying with the way the seemingly endless expanse of ice in Antarctica, like the work before you and all the other students in every department, learning things you aren’t, takes on treacherous aspects attempting to undermine your best efforts and defeat you in the end.  I remember being taken aback when I first went to the work area of the Architecture Department at Berkeley, and saw that many of the older students already had living quarters at their desks, knowing they would be spending many a night there.  The sensation of passing out on the lawn in front of the building after handing in a project, following two all-nighters in a row, remains with me as fresh as if it were yesterday.  For the life of me, I can’t remember what the dickens the project was for.
I forget—you may know better—but I think I’ve read that the average person will change careers, not just jobs, seven times before all is said and done.  I’ve run my own wholesale business in the art reproduction world, taught school back and forth, been on the board of the regional advertising association, the district liaison to the small business lobby, worked in banking, insurance, a writer—each of them for several years—and that’s not counting doing considerable time as a draftsman and postal worker, early on.  And I innovated the heck outa every place I’ve been (except the Post Office, which closed the building I worked in, instead) but most of all learned from the gig to better innovate my life, as I did with athletics and academics before that, both of which I’ve used at length throughout the posts.
Look at all the work you’re putting in here—and already put in since you were kids, just to get here—to finally be something someday: who knows? maybe the next CEO of Apple or some equally illustrious, perhaps even more important enterprise in its own right, you hope.  All the while, at least since adolescence, which wasn’t all that far back for most of you but seemed to last a lifetime in itself, as I recall, you thought somewhat from time to time, most often in scattered patches that never held together long enough to form a coherent picture, about eventually having a life, as well, which may make much of the modern art that befuddled you previously more comprehensible, and in return make your plight more comprehensible some time thereafter.
I’ve written a lot about the propensity of so-called Smart Phones and the like to prevent us from thinking about ourselves, our lives, and others in it coherently; to makes us shattered, as the Rolling Stones put it what seems like ever so long ago.  So have many other people, besides.  I’ve also mentioned Thoreau, Melville, and others writing profoundly 150 years earlier about the debilitating effects of mere mechanization.  Their cure is the same as mine: following the way they represent the realities they describe as the sole safeguard against succumbing to them.  Turn your back on it, if you like, but it’s still there.           

A multitude of financial institutions encourage people to plan their financial future.  Oddly, considering the substantial proportion of people’s income that goes towards healthcare, its significance in our overall well-being, and the many TV commercials for this institution or that, which provide it and one suspects are repeated in every other form of media, I don’t see any of them offering healthcare planning.  And then, of course (how could we forget?) there are the oodles and oodles of psychologists and psychotherapists, whom no one has managed to align in cohesive entities like financial institutions’ outlets and chains of hospitals.  One wonders why.
The universities where they get their training teach different approaches, often based on ideas as altogether different about how to help people as religions’.  Back to Square One: you’re on your own.  Business Plans—think about this one--are only as good (and transferable to the rest of your life) as your ability to innovate, day by day, hour by hour, within their framework.  How do you get your mind to do what you learned, on demand, pulling the right idea out of a hat at the right moment?
As you may have long since gotten the impression, I’m pretttty knowledgable about the arts—literature, in particular—and bedazzling as many of its all too few truly monumental masterpieces are, some of which I’ve also excerpted at the beginning of posts, I know of none that so continually and aptly does that as well as The Amazzing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, except pretty much all of Shakespeare’s.  As perfect as others may be, in their own way—even that way, from time to time, their magic tricks aren’t the same caliber gut-wrenching revelations about individual character traits that reverberate universally—to my mind, at least. 

Think business is tough?  Wait’ll you start living.  Have troubles with parents?  Wait’ll you have children of your own.  Think your parents have problems?  Wait’ll your tenth anniversaty with a companion of your own comes round, which is nothing compared to your twenty-fifth, IF you make it that far.
A marine, who was training for the air sea rescue corps, asked at the gym how I swim the whole pool and a half in a single bound after a fast half-mile, at twice his age and then some.  I mentioned a comment that legendary college basketball coach, Bobby Knight, once made about one of the hardest things for athletes to learn is not doing what they can't, by which he meant exceeding the point at which they can exert themselves while remaining relaxed.  Training is about extending that line as far as someone's natural abilities will go.  It was implicit in every practice session I had, alone in a playground or with a team in a gym.  I’m seeking that groove every time I’m at the gym, the whole time there.  Making that quest explicit enables someone to focus on that.  Everywhere.
Reading the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay may never help you in any practical aspect of business, per se, except to fine-tune your mind, the better to meet every challenge you encounter there, but it just may help you innovate your life more than anything you learn in any of your business classes.

I’ll leave you with this thought from it:

“In literature and folklore, the significance and the fascination of golems—from Rabbi Loew’s to Victor von Frankenstein’s—lay in their soullessness, in their tireless inhuman strength, in their metaphorical association with overweening human ambition, and in the frightening ease with which they passed beyond the control of their horrified and admiring creators…  The newspaper articles that Joe had read about the upcoming Senate investigation into comic books always cited ‘escapism’ among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, in young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape.  As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life.”

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