Victus Spiritus


Shatter the Status Quo

16 Jun 2009


The status quo may sound fantastic if you're on top of the world. But even if you are at the top of your field, a master of industry, or an empowered creative artist you never want things to remain unchanged. The status quo implies stagnation, it ends questions and learning. Suppose you are still working on realizing your dream, certainly you don't want to blindly accept the situation. There are many who are continually pushing the boundaries and moving forward, adapting to a changing world. I suggest that we all embrace the possibilities of a better future. One in which we are continually striving and challenged to give our best each day.

The Precursor to Change: Curiosity

First ask questions, curiousity is the foundation for change. You need to understand the current system, it's flaws, and it's strengths before suggesting a better option. While blessed with a powerful sense of wonder and curiosity, we are balanced with a heavy dose of foolishness as children. I can remember ardently questioning my first grade teacher how she could possibly know what words filled in the blank area of some ditto (old ink xerox copies). I wondered why I couldn't fill in the empty words with my own thoughts, or the kids next to me (sorry Mrs. Davis I was a bit of a rebel). When I entered college I chose physics as a major because then I would surely understand the forces of the universe. It was sobering to come to realize that much of physics is model fitting to measurements, then retrofitting theory to match those models. True understanding it seems, escaped even those who spent their lives studying primal forces. After that I succumbed to the need for some practical knowledge (graduate school in electrical engineering).

Throughout my years at school (they do seem like a lifetime ago now) I was actively playing tabletop role-playing games in the evening with friends. Here one could allow their imagination to not only create artistic personalities/voices/motivations, but look for loopholes or weak points in systems. This activity is known as rules lawyering (or in software as hacking). The combination of character style combined with subtly (or not so subtly) gaming the system created a wonderful environment rich in options for imagination. Thanks to fellow gamers for this opportunity: Conrad, Art, Dave, Terence, Howard, John, then later Aakin, Ryan, Eli, Gerry and many more.

My first instinct while working on problems as a software/algorithms engineer was always to come up with my own solution first. It was important for me to take time and think about the problem before looking for pre-existing answers. This activity allowed me to construct a framework to better understand alternative solutions, it would also allow my genuine problem solving skills a chance to come at the problem from a novel direction. Oftentimes my solutions were horrible compared to the optimal and they were easily corrected. At other times I came up with something that worked very well, and was something distinctive I could call my own. I strongly reccommend that each of you think carefully when faced with a new problem before running off to an expert (or looking one up), at the very least you will have a better understanding of what you need.

Over Time, Accepting the Status Quo Consumes You

By repeatedly meeting deadlines, and using precanned solutions, the system (of most daily work) attempts to convert your productivity into a commodity. In essence to boil "the you" out of you. I'd argue that our greatest value as leaders and workers is directly a result of our style and personality. Even in environments where one would imagine social interaction would limit productivity (factories), sharing a light and positive outlook with many fellow workers can measurably increase their efficiency. Giving purpose to the efforts of coworkers/staff, opens up the opportunity for greater care and creativity.

As our society, economy, and world evolves so should our understanding of the systems we interact in (economical, industrial, educational). It is incumbent upon us to continually question what is the best solution for a particular problem, and how best our society should function to allow for the greatest personal liberty, individual style, and creativity.