As part of my freelance work, I build art and help develop products for a small pinball printing company. Among other things (backglasses, plastics sets), we make Hardtops™, the premier pinball playfield restoration solution. We have about 20 classic games available, and have been releasing a new title every month or so.
We first attended the Chicago Pinball Expo in 2014. We had a vendor booth in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and won "Best Exhibit" all three years. This year, instead of cancelling the show, the Expo was virtual (a major feat of coordination). They live-streamed hours of seminars, interviews, tours, playing, and vendor ads.
I put together three videos. They're just simple editing of footage others supplied, but many times "simple and done" is better then "advanced and still not done". One was instructional (Hardtop installation), one promotional (old pinball machines need your restoration help), and the last was submitted just for fun (celebrating friendships made at the show).
I then had a really nice surprise - my "Friendship" video was chosen to close out the 4-day show. I'm touched and thrilled about that, because I had tried to sum up what made it an event we really looked forward to every year - the great people we meet to share in a hobby we love.
For the promotional video I used an unused music mix I made in 2007 that had been sitting on an old hard drive just waiting for the right moment. For the friends video I picked a song from Shot Baker for a couple reasons. First, the lyrics were perfect for the struggles of this year. Second, they are a Chicago band, and Chicago is the home of pinball and the Expo. Third, I kinda loosely know them, have seen them play three times, and was able to get permission to use the song. Thanks guys!
Their music just makes me feel good.
All my love is a compilation of the ones that I have grown to trust
We have withstood the test of time and you’re consistently still kind
The things I like about myself I feel I owe in part to everyone
who has made me feel like I’m worth knowing
My friend I know you’ll always be a part of me
Oh the finest moments when we are in tune
I’ve learned the world with you (my strength against the grain)
I’ll face this life with you
Hey! We’re OK!
Look ahead the struggles never end I know that we’ll all end up dead
Before I make my great depart just know the love’s stained on my heart
And if this bond should slip away everything I’ve learned will still remain
and I’ll smile sometimes when I think about you
My friend I know you’ll always be a part of me
And in finer moments know just why you’re close to me
I’ll see you on the inside
Sometimes we’ll break these barriers
Lost and imperfect with my friends.
Today marks 10 years since I switched to using a standing desk. You might think I’m crazy, but I never want to go back to sitting at a desk all day every day.
Honestly, it took a couple months for my feet to get used to it. It’s not something you can just dive into for a full day without feeling achy. However, now I can go from morning to midnight, and I don’t even notice.
My standing desks have always been rigged. My first was just a regular height desk with empty boxes on top that raised up the computer, keyboard, and mouse. Kudos to my boss at the time who let me try that ugly (but functional) experiment.
After a few years, I got a desk with longer legs, and it started to look not quite so hacked together.
For that setup, I had a digital side…
...and an analog side.
My current work-from-home setup is still pretty rigged, but functionally it’s the best I’ve had, and it works great.
The key is to have the heights right. You should have your eyes about even with the top of your screen (just like when sitting down), and your elbows should be about 90 degrees with your forearms not quite touching the desktop (just like when sitting down). Your shoulders should be relaxed, not shrugged. It’s worth the time to make little adjustments to make it fit you, and not the other way around.
This is the mat I stand on - Topo by Ergodriven. I love it because the varied surface gives my feet and legs lots of different positions to play with. I’m either in minimalist shoes, or barefoot. I’ve had it for about 5 years, and it has zero wear. Totally worth the $100.
I’d eventually like to build this awesomely simple adjustable desk. I bought the plans for $30, but it might be beyond my woodworking skill. Certain parts have to be dead on. We'll see, but it's just so cool I might have to try.
Someday I’d like to add a HON Perch stool.
And, when I make my first million, it will be the ultimate, a 2-level glass-topped EvoDesk.
I know having a standing desk isn’t for everyone. But for me, it helps my posture, my feet feel strong and healthy, and I’m more mentally alert. Plus, according to the site StandUp Kids, I’ve also burned 707,000 calories more than I would have sitting in my chair for 10 years. No wonder I can eat so much. :)
I love computers. My first was a TRS-80 from Radio Shack. I programmed in BASIC, Fortran, and Cobol. Once I got my first Mac (with just 4mb RAM, and a 40mb hard drive), I was off into the digital graphics world. In the 30 years since then, I've learned dozens (hundreds?) of applications for organizing information visually on a computer screen.
So, why haven't I gone paperless? Why is my daily paper use as high as it ever was? Because I strive to use the tool that gets the job done effectively with the least effort. There are many times when a piece of paper is simply the best tool.
Read more in my third blog post for Cabrera Research Lab!
I had an idea for a Systems Thinking poster. It was to use the initials of the four fundamental elements of Derek Cabrera's DSRP model to visually communicate the essence of each at a glance. I shared a sketch, and the Cabrera's liked it! A few rounds of back and forth, and this is the final piece.
To go along with it, I also wrote my second blog post for Cabrera Research Lab!
In late April, I discovered Cabrera Research Lab, and Derek and Laura Cabrera's fantastic work on Systems Thinking. Derek spent decades uncovering, distilling, and codifying the essence of how we think. He identified four fundamental elements of thinking that we all naturally do. However, knowing them and being able to name them and consciously apply them, well, it's just a game-changer for me.
How simple are they? They've taught them to kindergarten classes. How sophisticated are they? Derek and Laura both are professors at Cornell, and teach these concepts to grad students.
I've been diving deep into their work, and sending them questions and ideas. They are true education pros, and have generously and enthusiastically answered every question. They have also enjoyed my thoughts on the subject (even though I'm a complete neophyte), and asked me to write a blog post about how I used their tools to solve a problem in my own life.
Here's my first blog post for Cabrera Research Lab!
Here's a pdf of the index card setup.
I had a colleague ask "Where can we go for the facts? I'd pay for truth."
Truth requires FIRST tuning your own radar and thinking skills. Only then can all sources be potentially valuable. They can be evaluated and integrated into your own mental models, ideally updating them to better match reality. Our mental models are ALWAYS at least partially incomplete and wrong, but we can strive to make them more correct.
How do we tune our radar and make our thinking better? How can we know what's true? It starts with you. Tell the truth the best you can (especially to yourself). Accept that we all know a lot less than we think we do (the world is much more nuanced and complex than we ever want to admit). Keep your eyes and mind open so you can regularly update what you think is true. Only then can you begin to trust yourself to discern what's true.
It's not about the source. It's about your ability to evaluate the information.
Today it’s been one year since I lost my job in a mass layoff. With many unemployed and students looking at gap time, here’s a couple reflections on what I learned in the past 365 days.
“What to do when you don’t know what to do next.”
“You have to push in the clutch to shift gears.”
I had some, um, “excess capacity” while looking for a new job. Here's how I used it.
My first month was doing NOTHING work-oriented. It had been 13 busy years with many weeks of unused vacation left on the table (my fault). I was very fortunate that I had a little money saved, and just needed to take a real break.
LESSON: Don’t be too eager to rebound or freak out. A little time and distance can help.
After a month, it felt like time to start back up. I worked all day, every day. I did (and do) this seven days a week. Maintaining a routine is essential for emotional stability. Get up at a set time, get dressed, eat breakfast, exercise, walk, whatever works.
LESSON: When everything changes, re-evaluate if it’s really “everything”. Start with what's the same, stabilize your routine, and then slowly expand from there.
“Worked all day” meant I looked for jobs, looked for freelance design work, and spent the rest of the time following my curiosity to see what might be next for me. I decided to expand in all directions to see what popped up. Because of that, there was always some progress in one direction, which was motivating.
LESSON: It’s very a interesting experiment to follow your curiosity instead of a plan. A plan is based on consciously knowing where you want to go. Curiosity can lead you to where you didn’t know you wanted to go.
LESSON: Learn. Rusty skills come back, new skills can be learned, and progress is motivating. Not all learning needs a goal. Just learn what interests you, because it all connects. You are also learning what you like, what you’ll keep learning even when it gets hard, and learning that might be the most important thing of all.
I’ve connected with people around the world. A productivity expert in California, a visual facilitator in Germany, a Cornell systems thinking professor, a UMass creative thinking professor, a retired patent attorney, an animator in Italy, a thought leader who created the world's largest personal interconnected digital “brain”, three keynote speakers, and some friends and co-workers I hadn’t seen in over 10 years.
LESSON: It’s easier to connect with people than ever before. If you are interested in their work, tell them. If you’ve done anything related to their interests, share it. I’ve found most people are just looking for others interested in the same things they are, no matter how accomplished they are. And everyone loves a sincere and spontaneous compliment!
I’ve been trying to discover what I really like and want to do. Easy for some, not for me. You can do great work for many years without being inspired by a job, and then forget that there are other things out there you could do. I worked with a wonderful career counselor for a few months. I explored Creative Problem Solving methodologies, which led to Design Thinking, which led to “Clarity Specialist”, to Service Design, to Instructional Design, to Visual Facilitation, to UI/UX design, to Systems Thinking. Along the way, I practiced skills and sent or posted things I thought would be helpful. Maybe they were, but they also opened up new areas and connections. Importantly, I felt like I wasn’t invisible, and that I was getting closer to clarity.
LESSON: If you aren’t sure, instead of picking from what you already know, treat that feeling as a sign that you haven’t ranged wide enough or deep enough yet. Explore, risk-free. You will find worlds you never knew existed. If the discovery of one of these worlds makes you giddy, follow that.
The reality of the job market is that it’s tough for older workers. Not a complaint, just a truth. This also makes it hard on younger workers, because older workers are now competing for jobs requiring much less experience. I have 30 years professional experience. The people I know with that kind of experience (and more) are absolutely vital, engaged, and sharp as a tack. They’ve been building, trying, failing, learning, succeeding, connecting and growing for decades. They have a deep understanding of their fields, systems, relationships, and how things work. To hear them talk, or better yet, talk with their peers, is inspiring. It makes me realize how far you can go if you continue to grow for a lifetime. However, the corporate job market might not be organized for what they have to offer.
LESSON: If you are fighting uphill, maybe that’s because you haven’t aligned your beliefs and mental models with reality. What always worked before might not work now. I recently stopped thinking a traditional job was the only solution. I instead asked myself “where can I find my greatest contribution?”, and other paths began appearing.
My work life was corporate life. It always felt like the safe option. I did good work, grew sales, fixed problems, built systems, saved time, saved money, helped coworkers and vendors, won awards, got promoted. I’ve now lost my “safe” corporate job twice, each time sending me into a search lasting at least a year. All along, I’ve had a hobby of developing sets of useful tools that I’ve mostly given away to anyone who could benefit. I started thinking about turning those 25 years of hobby into a portfolio of learning products. Along with freelance design work, perhaps they could replace my traditional corporate income. Unless a corporate job shows up pretty soon, I’m about to find out.
LESSON: Just because you enjoy something enough to do it for free, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Whatever it is, there are plenty of people who don’t want to do it, or don't know how, and will pay you to help them. Take stock of your skills. Pay special attention to those things that are “easy” for you, that you enjoy so much you don’t mind the work. If those things can help others, you might have found your niche.
Thanks for reading. This has been a year of hills and valleys for everyone. Maybe if we can all contribute to the world based on what we each are uniquely wired to do, we can collectively go from hilltop to hilltop, instead of valley to valley. It's the same amount of work, but the view is better.
I woke up this morning with an idea. It stuck with me all day, so I had to make it real.
It's hard to decide which way to go from here, but further apart feels like the wrong direction.
I heard about a "United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives". The goal was to develop helpful or positive messaging to share. I sat down with my tablet for about three hours and adapted my previous 3,000 heart drawing. If it resonates with you, please share it with people you think it might help.
You can see the thousands(!) of other submissions here.
#unitednations #UNCovid19Brief #alonetogether #bodiesapartheartstogether
Hi, I'm Scott Moehring
I'm a designer, teacher, writer, inventor, hockey player, gamer, and lifelong learner. I like to make cool stuff and share it with curious people.