Grand Strategy

Posted on February 9, 2018

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When you hear the term grand strategy relative to a state or government, it usually refers to the overarching strategy that 1) considers the long-term consequences of using all instruments of national power – military, economic, diplomatic, informational, etc. – to advance national interests, and 2) governs all underlying objectives, tactics, and decisions. To be most effective, a state sets policies connected and consistent with its overarching grand strategy and acts accordingly. It’s simple enough in theory. I thought about grand strategy recently while I heard the artist Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) mention his annual goals:

2009: freedom. 2010: invasion. 2011: build empire. 2012: grow wealth. 2013: put the puzzle together. 2014: buckle up. 2015: make history. 2016 disruption. 2017: gingerbread man, catch me if you can. 2018: legacy.

Ten years of explicit goals, a show in Las Vegas, and more to come in the years ahead (clear vision, generational wealth, etc.). It’s a guide to focus objectives, an anchor against competing priorities, and a framework to allocate resources. What could we accomplish with a grand strategy?

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(Unnatural) Naturalness

Posted on January 26, 2018

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“Here is the natural instinct. And here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony. If you have one to the extreme, you’ll be very unscientific. If you have another to the extreme, you become all of a sudden a mechanical man. No longer a human being. So it is a successful combination of both. So therefore, it is not pure naturalness or unnaturalness. The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness.” –Bruce Lee

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Notes on a Job Search

Posted on January 21, 2018

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Study the Market

Understand what is available in your market. What is the business and competitive landscape? Who is hiring? What type of roles and skills are in demand? How are job descriptions worded? Sign up for job posting alerts (e.g., LinkedIn, The Ladders, company websites, etc.) to monitor market activity over time. There is a wealth of information available online that can help you get a sense of the market, and just seeing what is available will help you align and target better.

Determine the Ideal

Develop a perspective of your optimal job profile. What are the ideal job characteristics? What does an average day look like? What personal differentiators or constraints do you have to consider? Think about job basics as well as cosmetics (e.g., work environment, travel requirements, ways of working, etc.). Consider how you would write your own job description. This will help you identify job characteristics that are important and help you evaluate pros and cons.

Focus your Connections

Target actual decision-makers. What is the best path to the person(s) making a hiring decision? Who are the gatekeepers? How meaningful are the interactions along the way? Seek specific professional interactions. Avoid recruiters with generic, poorly-worded, let’s-have-a-chat solicitations. A simple path is: a company recruiter with a specific role to fill connects with you through LinkedIn (based on experience match) and then screens you to the hiring manager. This gets you into the discussion quickly.

Tell the Value Story

Articulate the value you bring to the role. Why are your skills so valuable to the hiring team? What do you have that will make others’ work life easier? How will you positively impact financial performance? Polish your job profiles and social media presences, and have your experience detailed to highlight the areas of interest to you. Same for resumes or portfolios, but of course those should be customized even further to each job you consider. Focus more on the succinct stories of value you provided than the ‘label’ of prior titles or internal jargon. Consider what you would do in the role if you had no one to tell you what to do. If you’re confident with that, share it.

Make a Decision

Analyze and decide the path forward. What are your options? What are the trade-offs of each? What is most important to your work-life? Consider your gut feel in addition to any rigorous analysis. Evaluate trade-offs within and across opportunities. Remember that not making a decision is actually making a decision to continue the status quo. Just going through the evaluation process is enlightening.

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Marfa Again

Posted on January 13, 2018

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I went to Marfa. Again. During my first visit, I had a sense I would return eventually. And so I do in October 2017, flying into El Paso, driving I-10 through a seemingly permanent border patrol checkpoint, then taking US-90 past Prada Marfa. After an enjoyable five days in New York, I’m ready for more open space, slightly less noise, and continued inspiration. Marfa once again delivers.

Upon arrival in Marfa, my first stop is Judd Foundation downtown (of course here, downtown means near the traffic stop). I pick up a current Marfa map, ask about happenings in the area, and confirm previously-made reservations. Judging from the visible staff and guests, the primary demographic in Marfa is self-selected. If you’re here, you probably want to be.

Don Judd

Over the next few days I have a casual Don Judd focused immersion as I visit The Block, The Studios, and Chinati. Each presents a slightly different perspective of Don’s art and vision. The Block is more of a private space with a gravel courtyard surrounding his living quarters, expansive personal library, and selected early work. The Studios contain work space, including what Don called a cerebral laboratory, across multiple buildings. And Chinati provides more of a public space for permanent installations amidst a repurposed military base that housed German POWs during the Second World War. DEN KOPF BENUTZEN IST BESSER ALS IHN VERLIEREN.

Balmorhea State Park

On the warmest day in the forecast, I drive to Balmorhea State Park for a swim. The mid-day roads are empty of cars, and the spring-fed pool is populated by fish. I drive fast and swim slow before lounging in the sun with my book. I think it’s a Tuesday.

Around Town

And Marfa keeps evolving. There’s a proper gym now. Stellina and Al Campo are new to me. The Hotel St George is open. Another whorehouse for the millionaires, a seasoned local slanders it. But I enjoy a hamburger at the bar without being solicited. And I like the mainstays: Buns n’ Roses, Capri, Cobra Rock, Cochineal, Food Shark, Mirth, The Get Go, and gallery pop-ins around town. I depart quite charmed. Again.

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Linearity

Posted on January 6, 2018

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As I look back on 2017, I notice the distinct absence of linearity. Progress comes in fits and starts. Certain decisions and certain moments have bigger impacts, just like certain periods in the stock market dramatically swing investment returns. Challenges and opportunities often arise in unpredictable ways. Like a sprinter in training, long months of unnoticed preparation can lead to a short visible accomplishment. The absence of linearity is exactly why recurring analysis and recurring improvement are so important to advancing in a changing ecosystem, and we all live in one. Let’s all make intentional progress in 2018, even if it’s not linear.

“Design does not progress in a straight line. Design grows in response to the same essential forces of breaking down and building up that inform all innovation.” -Esperanza Emily Spalding

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Five Days in October

Posted on December 31, 2017

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For five days in October, I seek inspiration among the galleries, museums, streets and tabletops in New York. I have plans to tour Don Judd’s 101 Spring Street and visit as many Dia locations as reasonable, otherwise I expect my days to fill up with whatever strikes my interest at the time. There is certainly no lack of things to do.

Wednesday, October 18

On the day of arrival, my primary objective is to settle into the immediate environment. So after dropping luggage, I walk the High Line to the Chelsea Market for a late and leisurely lunch. Feeling refreshed on a nice afternoon, I spend the rest of the day flaneuring in parks, through Chelsea galleries, and in the book collection at Hauser & Wirth. Extra time on an efficient travel day always seems like a bonus, and I linger at the Dia:Chelsea Rita McBride exhibit until my senses are saturated.

Thursday, October 19

Today is anchored around a DIA:Beacon visit which I hope to find quieter on a weekday. A scenic Metro North train ride along the Hudson, and a short walk from the Beacon station, brings me to the manicured grounds. The building itself (a former Nabisco box printing factory, circa 1929) is worth the trip, and the galleries do not disappoint. I appreciate the Walter De Maria installations more after my previous visit to The Lightning Field, and I find Robert Irwin an absolute master at his craft. I wander around Richard Serra’s torqued ellipses, Bruce Nauman’s lights, and Robert Morris’s detritus. It is A LOT of contemporary art, and I continue with Smithson, Chamberlain, Heizer, Flavin, Lewitt, Kawara, Ryman, and more.

As I repeatedly view my favorite pieces and check off the remainder of the collection in the afternoon, I witness an amusing scene. A guest harangues a gallery attendant: Where’s the art? Paintings like Picasso or Rembrandt! It’s like asking for lasagna at a sushi restaurant. And you could have checked the menu in advance buddy.
Since I opted for more gallery time over a walk through Beacon proper, I have an excuse for a return visit to the area, and I decide to leave. A reverse commute back into the city brings me from the sunny calm of Beacon to the glowing bustle of Times Square in the evening. I loiter by the Max Neuhaus installation in Times Square, and in another contrast to the day, no one else notices the art.

Friday, October 20

With only an afternoon appointment in SoHo before dinner, I have the morning to myself. I pop into the respectable study at The Morgan Library and Museum and pause behind Pierpont Morgan’s desk. Sitting in his lion foot chair, with his fingertips poised by spring-loaded drawers and a view of the book vault, he must have felt pleased in his day. Today I’m not so sure. Is there a difference between voracious collecting and obsessive hoarding when the results are the same? A mountain of things are pulled from their original context, aggregated for a time, and then scattered to their next destination. After his death, pieces from Morgan’s collection went to The Met, The National Gallery of Art, The Frick Collection, and The Wadsworth Atheneum. All thanks to The Magnet:

“The Magnet”, Joseph Kepper, Puck Magazine

I transition to SoHo with lunch at Quartino (Bottega Organica), and then stops at two hidden gem De Maria installations: The New York Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer. The Earth Room presents a dirt-like aroma on approach, it must be interesting to have this as a neighbor, and the light on The Broken Kilometer presents a shimmering effect between the rows of brass rods. I’ve covered all senses again today.

My afternoon appointment is a tour of 101 Spring Street, a five story cast-iron building constructed in 1870 and purchased by Don Judd in 1968 for $68,000. Judd immediately replaced the boiler and made repairs consistent with the simple given circumstances:

  • The floors must be open
  • The right angle of windows on each floor must not be interrupted
  • Any changes must be compatible

The design of the space led to a primary function for each floor: 1st exhibit, 2nd dining, 3rd studio, 4th parlor, 5th sleeping. Everything was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent. On its own, and as a precedent for larger Judd locations in Marfa, it is a remarkable space. Following the tour, I re-immerse into modern culture by people watching at the Apple store, fabric perusal at Brunello Cucinelli, and a rousing social dinner in Tribeca.

Saturday, October 21

Following a workout penance for my late Friday evening, I dive into fashion with 111 clothing and accessory items at MOMA and a Force of Nature exhibit at FIT. From cultural appropriation of materials, shapes, and colors to sensory exploitation of feathers, flowers, and fruit. By the evening, drinks and a DJ near the East Village are most welcome.

“Those who are inspired by a model other than nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.” –Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, October 22

I start a quiet Sunday morning on the Upper East Side at the Cooper Hewitt, one of my favorite museums in New York City. Today the exhibit concepts range from sound to the seven deadly sins to design in the digital age. What Joris Laarman has done (and is doing) with natural-informed designs and MX3D digital fabrication is absolutely amazing.
After a late brunch, some stumbled-upon browsing, and another long walk, my five days are coming to an end. The sunset air has a slight tinge of cigar smoke as I sit with my notes and thoughts in the courtyard of the Palace Hotel. Tucked behind Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I’ve always found it a bit of an oasis in the city.

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