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Leadership Art

Art Week - Post 2 - Kirkland Museum new building, Denver, Colorado

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Vance Kirkland's art has a goregous new home in Denver.

Kirkland was a painter who lived and worked in Denver for most of his life and career (roughly 1930 until his death in 1981).

Kirkland Museum opened in Denver in 2003. It incorporated Kirkland's original studio building with additional gallery space. It was an amazing, but small, museum with many wonderful pieces.

The museum was closed for nearly two years and reopened recently in their new home, a new building at 13th and Bannock St. in Denver. This move included moving the old studio building to the new location.

What will you see if you visit?

Kirkland was a modernist. If you think that modern art is challenging, his work has a universal appeal that often makes an impression beyond the normal core audience for modern art. This appeal comes from 3 places:

  1. His late-period dot paintings are large and spectacular. They have visual force.
  2. Kirkland's career spanned many decades and styles of painting. Though all of those styles are modern, there is a variety to his work and a visible evolution that attracts casual visitors. Kirkland did not stop evolving, challenging himself, or creating new things. Late into his life he was experimenting and breaking new ground. This life-long quest and variety are visible everywhere you look in the museum.
  3. Even though it is modern, it is still landscape painting. From early, more traditional landscapes, to later surreal, fantastic, and other-worldly pictures, the art remains rooted in landscape. This is true even when there is no 'land' in it. Some late work can be considered pure abstraction, though he gave them names suggestive of science fact and fiction: Explosions of Energy Near Mars 10 Million Years B.C. Or Five Red-Orange Suns in Space.

The studio building that was moved contains Kirkland's unique 'over the table suspension' rig that he used to paint. It allowed him to lie down and work suspended above the painting for long periods of time. This piece of the museum collection is something that people often comment on.

I've been a member of the museum for more than 10 years and I am really happy about the move to the new location and facility. And I am also happy the museum is open again.

It is remarkable art, and now it has a remarkable building to live in. The new building has room to allow a visitor to view larger canvases from a greater distance than was possible in the old, smaller building.

If you are put off by modern art, and my points above don't convince you, there is a lot more to the Kirkland. Kirkland Museum has 3 major collections:

  1. Paintings by Vance Kirkland
  2. Colorado Art
  3. Mid-Century Modern Design

The Mid-Century Design collection includes some furniture and other home decor with very broad appeal. A sofa that looks like lips? Yep. Lamps shaped like pharmeceutical capsules? You know it.

Kirkland

They also have a TV that looks like a space helmet and a 'marshmallow sofa'.

The Kirkland used to be small and a little out of the way in Denver, and with the move they've changed all that.

It demands a visit if you're local or visiting Denver for some other reason. It's central location makes it easy to get to. It's also easy to combine with a visit to the Denver Art Museum or the Clyfford Still Museum, both less than a block away.

Seeing these three buildings and their housed collections are worth a visit to town, all on their own.

Leadership Angle: Kirkland didn't stop pushing himself to do new things and didn't rest on his laurels, even late in his life. Also, he chose Denver as his base of operations. He could have chosen a more cosmopolitan location - New York, Paris, San Francisco - as an artist might today. He was drawn to the city and to the landscapes of Colorado and chose to make this his home for more than 50 years.

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Leadership Technology Art

Art Week - Post 1 - Art Made Entirely with CSS and HTML

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I recently came across this image created entirely with css and html:

Francine Thumg

This is pretty amazing stuff. You can see the true css/html version here (the image above is just a captured image):

http://diana-adrianne.com/purecss-francine/

HTML and CSS are the guts of the web and they do a lot of neat things. Usually they're used to make menus, position buttons, display data, animate things, and do other heavy lifting tasks of the web.

Most people who wanted to make an image like this would go into a graphics or drawing program (or get out some paints) and draw the picture, which would then be converted to an image file.

What this artist (her name is Diana Smith) has done is to use the same technology developers and designers use to position a 'Save' button on a web page, and she's used it position every single strand of hair (and everything else), as well as color and shade all of it.

If you look closely you can even see veins in her skin.

This is incredible talent with this technology, and a willingness to do something more and see what a particular tool can really do.

It also shows the versatility and power of HTML and CSS to do almost anything when it comes to display and visuals on the web.

Incredible.

As a leader ask yourself, "Do I ask enough of myself and those around me? Am I prepared to put this type of discretionary effort to my own work and art?"

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Leadership Software Development Work

Three Types of Fun, Applied to Work

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This came up in a meeting I attended. I described something a development team was working on as fun, and I was informed that it (creating peer-to-peer connections between Android devices) was Type 2 Fun, at best.

https://www.rei.com/blog/climb/fun-scale

I had never seen this before.

A lot of our work (hopefully) falls squarely into the Type 2 Fun category. Not that fun at the time, but fun to remember later, usually because I learned a lot and became better because of the work.

This is worth aspiring for in a career. If you find yourself having a lot of Type 1 Fun (regular, fun-while-it-is-happening fun) you probably either work at a skating rink and really enjoy the YMCA, are a little delusional, or a very self-actualized person.

Should you have some Type 1 Fun on a regular basis? Yes, you should. Can some of it be at work? Absolutely.

But a better achievement for our society is if a lot of us can sit around and say, "You know I learned a lot from that and it helped me excel in my career." If we can say that a lot of the time about a lot of the work we did, we've come a long way from where we were even 100 years ago.

Type 1 Fun is helpful and helps make people more productive. Type 2 Fun is necessary for the success of our companies and careers. And I do mean necessary - things that are a slog (Type 3 Fun) are unsustainable, in the long run.

I've certainly come acrosss some Type 3 Fun, also called, "Let's never do that again." But then, they are still jobs, even when it is your career.

Here's a quick reference, updated for the workplace:

Type 1 Fun: Remember that project where you learned a lot, everything was on time and on budget, and no one got frustrated ever? Me either. Remember that time you won the Fantasy Football League or had a great time at the Christmas party? Type 1 Fun all the way, and work related.

Type 2 Fun: Remember the difficult project where you started behind the 8 ball, worked long hours, but pushed yourself and came out the other side with a ton of knowledge? And you shipped a great product? Remember that time when you got fired and worked hard in your time between jobs so that once you landed a new job you were a changed person with different goals and a new outlook on life? That's Type 2 Fun.

Type 3 Fun: Remember having to do arbitrary work that didn't matter because it fit into someone else's system? Remember the client who used personal attacks on people because they were very unprofessional? That's Type 3 Fun, and it isn't migrating to Type 2 any time soon.

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Mindfulness Leadership

Tools, Brains, Obsolescence

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I just finished watching 2001: A Space Odyssey with my kids and it's a good reminder that technology and tools may not always be what we expect.

Not every tool looks like a cell phone or an AI algorithm. Sometimes a club is a tool also. Hopefully, as business leaders, our use of clubs (both literal and figurative) is rare.

It is useful to consider the club in the following way: A club is different from a spaceship, but they are both tools. Perhaps, as the movie suggests, both rudimentary tools in some sense. If not today, then tomorrow.

People will always make more tools and they can use them in new ways. So people are the real asset in the long run. Humanity.

Humans are tool makers and the mind, while itself a tool, is capable of not only altering the world around it, but of altering itself for the better.

Today's spaceship is tomorrow's club and humanity today is not the same as humanity 1000 or a 100 years ago.

This is our challenge as humans and business leaders - people evolve. Customers get more sophisticated. Spaceships become clubs. Humans persist.

How will you use this to motivate and unlock discretionary effort in your organization? Hint: not like the picture.

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HRV Heart Rate Variability Leadership Mindfulness

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and You

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Looking at HRV is not like looking at basic bio-data data like steps, calories, or resting heart rate.

As a measure of variability over time it is both more powerful and a bit harder to understand.

I'm currently using two different app/hardware combos to look at information related to HRV.

The fist app is called Biostrap. It provides hardware and software for looking at sophistcated biometric data including HRV. I'm currently only using the wristband, and only looking at HRV.

I'm also using Complete Coherence's Android App with a Polar H10 heart rate monitor. The Complete Coherence app doesn't provide you with direct information on HRV, but offers you insight on how well you are using their breathing exercises which are designed to improve HRV.

As a result, the Complete Coherence application is a little bit more intuitive, though not as clean or modern looking as Biostrap. Because you are measuring coherence (their term) and not HRV directly they're a bit freer to make it easier to consume. It's a simple 1 - 100 scale with color coding from bad (red) to good (green).

Here some example graphs that it produces after (not during) a session:

The one challenge is that it is sometimes hard to tell why I'm getting the scores that I'm getting. I'm doing the breathing exercises and mostly that makes the score go up, though sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, there isn't a strong indication of what I could do better. With a bit of trial and error I discovered that playing with the breath-timing settings allowed me to get more consistent results. Presumably this means that there was a breathing pattern that better suited me and changing it (changed from 6 breaths-per-minute to 5 breaths-per-minute) produced improved HRV.

But I can't actually see that directly in the app.

In contrast, Biostrap is designed to provide you directly with HRV readings. This is considerably more involved process than just strapping on a writband and having it count steps or give you your resting heartrate.

The Biostrap hardware uses a clinical-grade photoplethysmogram (PPG) to gather much more precise heartbeat data than other PPG-based fitness bands.

Because the hardware is more purpose-built for heartrate it looks a bit more utilitarian (no displays or buttons) and it requires a little more handholding. You have to explicitly tell it to do a biometric session and when you are going to sleep.

The data that comes back is much more detailed and the analysis gives you a much clearer picture of the HRV measurements the app is taking. It isn't transmuted into a user friendly number or code.

As a result I can see what my HRV measurements are: I can see averages, I can see individual data points, and I can see trend information over time. The app has a clean, modern look which you can see here:

Yes, but what does it all mean you ask? What's good? What's bad? What's average?
The first answer I found was, 'It depends' and then, 'You're better off comparing against your self over time.'

And then I found this article that at least provides some guidance.

After all is said and done, my average is a tiny bit above the average for my age and gender, so that's good, I guess. Now I have a goal to work toward which is to improve on that.

Of course, Biostrap doesn't provide me with guidance on how to improve.

For that, I'm going to continue to use the Complete Coherence system for improving HRV, along with regular exercise and meditation. Hopefully I will see long term improvement in my averages. I like the Complete Coherence program (which extends well beyond HRV into other mindfulness-related areas). I am sharing it with some colleagues who are interested in improving health and new ways to manage stress and improve energy.

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Leadership Mindfulness

Personal Energy and Leadership - How Are You Feeling Today?

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As I've mentioned in the last couple posts I'm reading Dr. Alan Watkins' Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership. It explores the connections between body and mind in detail as it relates to business leadership and management.

This is a subject matter that I've written about extensively on this blog.

The book has a lot of insights based on Dr. Watkins extensive medical and consulting work with business leaders, as well as brining together a lot of other science related to behavior and personal growth.

It's a powerful book and worth reading, even if you aren't interested in mindfulness or meditation. If you're interested in being a more effective leader, this book is for you, though it will almost certainly challenge your preconceived notions of what leadership consists of; how one approaches making improvements as a leader, and what a leadership book consists of.

You have never read anything like it.

One of the primary, liberating insights of this book is that time management is unimportant comapred with energy management. Our ability to be our best selves, project constructive energy, and unlock the discretionary efforts of ourselves and others is what matters as a leader in business. Managing a calendar pales in comparison to this.

How do you do this? And what are the revelatory insights presented?

You probably need to read the book to really understand them, but I will give you a brief glimpse.

Before you even begin to look at behavior or think about business results, you must consider the physiology and emotional components of our human bodies. Our higher brain functions and behavior rest on top of these foundations. If you ignore them then you are ignoring key pieces of the puzzle that affect our behavior and the behavior of others.

The book provides positive, concrete steps and exercises that can help you understand these things and use them to your advantage.

Give it a read, it is worth the time.