Saturday, December 22, 2007

Watch More TV

How do you interpret the world around you?

In a recent conversation about writing, BL said that some people have large warehouses of stories and "knowledge" from which they can dazzlingly produce insights and connections between seemingly unrelated things. His example was Stephen Jay Gould.

Of course, Gould was in a class by himself with an warehouse, but we all have our warehouses, albeit smaller and filled with less interesting things. And the stories we've collected, the stories we've "written" ourselves, provide a basis for understanding the things that happen around us. It's pattern recognition - but in order to see a pattern, we need to RECOGNIZE it, it needs to be familiar. This is why you can always identify the women who've read too many Harlequin romance novels or the guys who've watched too much porn, because there's always the desire (or habit) to mold things into familiar patterns.

IC and I, in starting this business together, have had many a conversation about our respective strengths and weaknesses. Conventional wisdom as touted by self-help books and job performance reviews would tell you that you should identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on improving your weaknesses. We disagree. Our stance is that you should work on getting even better at the things you already do well and COMPLETELY IGNORE your weaknesses. You can always find people who do well what you can't.

SK and I discussed this in the context of IQ tests. I've taken three in my life - IQ tests administered by someone trained to do so, lasting HOURS. The first was when I was very young, and the hungrier I got, the more my answers involved food:

"What's the answer to this?"
"And this?"
"Fried SPAM with rice and kimchee."

The second was in High School, and the third was part of a job interview process (also involving countless sessions with shrinks, polygraphs, EKGs and MRIs and blood work, and sessions where I was instructed to wear comfortable clothes and I showed up garbed in my Juicy Couture sweatpants and matching hoodie and wedge sneakers purchased in Florence. But I'm not really allowed to talk about it so maybe I'm lying to make this post more titillating and as an excuse to type "titillating" again.)

There's a common thread throughout all my results. There are certain things I'm very good at: pattern recognition and production involving numbers and puzzles, in particular. And there are the things that I am VERY BAD at: essentially everything requiring an understanding of what motivates other people - my scores for those sections confirm my mother's worst fears that I am retarded.

This explains why I am constantly asking SK and IC why so-and-so did this or that, and what will so-and-so do next? However, they're not particularly good at this either, so we usually end up just making shit up, or trying fruitlessly to apply game theory, or going to's yes/no oracle.

WC and KK are far better resources for me. They both have vast warehouses of stories illustrating the calculus involved in interpersonal relationships. And just as people very fluent in a foreign language no longer have to translate when they speak or listen, WC and KK have internalized these patterns and pieces of patterns so that their analyses don't have to involve overt translation from a particular story. In contrast, if I haven't read a book or watched a movie that describes that exact interaction, I am at a loss.

So I guess my big take-away from this is that I should read more. And possibly watch more porn, or at least watch movies other than slasher flicks. Maybe the Lifetime Network?

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