Monday, May 31, 2010

LOST finale: Eastern vs Western mindset

Disclaimer: This post will not be about the details of the show but more about why i think people mostly disliked it in the end. You do not need to know a single character or plot line to read on.

Even if you can't stand the show LOST you could not avoid hearing about how it ended. I am one that enjoyed the show (however i did have some moments of almost letting go) and in fact enjoyed the finale as well. From what i heard around the water-cooler and read in other places i am in the very small minority.

Reasons that i heard routinely for viewer's dislike of the ending was that too many loose ends were never tied up. Too many plot lines and "issues" were never solved. The writers took the easy way out to the end. And the list could go on...but mainly the dislike coming from loyal fanatics of the show for 6 years was that it left too many questions unanswered or that the few answers given were cop-outs (taking the easy way to resolve the end).

This line of thinking and cause of frustration is a Western mindset. Give me the facts dang it! Answer all the questions! Make the plot lines make sense! Wrap this thing up in a nice tight package so i can rest easy!

The show was difficult to follow. It was so called "intelligent" TV. It made you think and ask questions. And that was a major reason that i liked it. This show impacted our culture in ways that few television shows have ever done. It caused viewers to actually pay attention in commercials, scour the internet for clues, and dig through pages & pages of blogs, chat rooms, & devoted websites to research other fans theories and ideas about what was actually happening on the show.

All of this commotion, promotion & marketing of the show played right into the hands of the Western mindset. Raise questions -- then find answers. We were taught from the very beginning of our time in school to use the scientific method to find answers to our questions. And this show pushed viewers to do just the same (again, like no other show before it).

This "bait" was dangled in front of the viewer's noses for almost 6 full years. And it worked. The "bait" created a buzz so big that no less than 2 other shows in a similar genre were launched while LOST was still being aired. The "bait" was so effective that for a few seasons a rerun of the previous episode was aired an hour before the new episode in a "pop-up video" kind of way.

The problem is that in the end (the finale -- which lasted 2.5 hours with an additional 2 hour recap on before it -- again think of any other show that had this type of air-time devoted to it) the bait was yanked away. Many questions were left unanswered. Many plot lines were not even revisited. The scientific method proved useless on solving the show.

How dare the writers do this?! After all those hours spent wringing hands, searching for clues, computing data, and theorizing for answers. This is all we get? Western mindset an Eastern solution.

We don't have to have all the answers/solutions. In fact, what if we answer questions by raising more questions. What if the end is more about the bigger story...the bigger narrative being played out? What if the show was really all about the characters and their development? What if the purpose and meaning of the show was to demonstrate the cause & effect relationship of each person's decisions and how it impacted their life?

I LOVED the ending of the LOST. There is no way that the writers could answer all the questions and close all the gaps that were brought up in the last 6 years. And i believe the writers never had any intention of doing so from the beginning. The purpose of LOST was about character development & the story of the people.

We can learn a lot from this ending. Let go of the scientific method from time to time. Embrace character development. Embrace the bigger story at play. Embrace your story and where you are in it. Engage in how the decision you make will impact your life and the life of those around you.

In the end LOST was not lost. In fact the characters were found. If by no one else, they at least discovered themselves. And to me that is the most important part of the show.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More "why" than "what"...

Recently i have been posting entries regarding "Meaningful Distinction." See the first entry where i explain what it is and why it is relevant with examples from our culture. You can see the second if you just want another very popular example from our culture.

Well yesterday a good friend & co-worker, Derrick Purvis, posted a video on his blog from the TED talk series. As i watched that talk i realized that it was directly dealing with & discussing "meaningful distinction." In fact i would say this guy was giving the "biology" behind how to create it.

Moreover, i just started a section on the sidebar of my blog called "Slice of Culture" where i will frequently be posting something in that section that gives good insight into today's culture. It just so happens my first post was about the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks: Ideas Worth Spreading. So it appears Derrick posted a video that was perfect for 2 things i have recently been spending a lot of time on.

Be sure and check out this video. It is very compelling & well worth your time whether you care about "meaningful distinction" or my interest in the TED talk series. It is a video that has relevance to your life no matter what you do (in my humble opinion).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meaningful Distinction -- Part 2 "Chick-Fil-A

(Seriously - who doesn't love Chick-Fil-A?!)
Recently, i made a post regarding "Meaningful Distinction" -- what it is and its relevance to us. After writing that piece i really began to see things that just jumped out at me as great examples of "Meaningful Distinction" in our culture.

Chick-fil-a is one of those. When it comes to so-called "fast food" chains Chick-fil-a has definitely created separation from the other main chains. In fact, i dont even think of CFA as a typical fast food restaurant. Yes they are fast and convenient but they are certainly a step above the others. CFA has created a meaningful distinction between themselves and their competition.

If you have eaten at CFA i want you to pause for a moment and think about how your experience there is different from other "typical" fast food joints. Think about how the restaurant looks inside - how it operates - how the employees act - how you are treated - how the food tastes & looks - etc.

Some things you might have thought of:
How it looks -- the restaurant is always clean...from the restrooms to the top of the garbage cans to the floors to the tables to the condiment stations. It is always bright and sterile looking (white is an overwhelming choice of color). There are fresh flowers on the tables in some stores.

How it operates -- effecient is the keyword here. The lines always move fast and the order is always correct. Smooth operation.

How the employees act -- courteous. You will notice they refer to "customers" as "guests." The name change indicates that you are not viewed as a client or a source of money but as a guest. The emphasis is on hospitality not on getting you to empty your wallet. You will also notice that if you say "thank you" the response back is "my pleasure." Again, the emphasis is on being glad & proud to serve the guests. If time allows a host will be around to offer a refill and check on your meal. What other fast food chain offers that?

How the food tastes/looks -- they dont just show great looking food in commercials. They actually have it like that in the store as well. They put great effort in providing the same looking food on your tray as what you see on TV or in an add.

Bonus -- who gives away more food than Chick-fil-a. I can't recall how many times my friends and i have made trips to a local CFA store for free breakfast items.

My point is this: Chick-fil-a has made great efforts to not just be another fast food chain. They want to be your only convenience restaurant. And they have done that by creating meaningful distinction. They didn't invent the chicken -- just the chicken sandwich (and the best customer service in the business). The last part of the slogan was obviously added by me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Encouragement works -- both ways...

(The Finish Line)
  • Recently i finished an Olympic Distance Triathlon in Knoxville, TN. It was a great experience all around. The race is part of a series of races put on by Rev3 and they did a fantastic job. I was very impressed by their emphasis on detail and on making it a family event (which was very important considering race day was Mother's Day). There just so happened to be 55 professional triathletes in this race as well as guest celebrity racer Tara Costa from Season 8 of "The Biggest Loser."
  • There are many things i love about races -- whether they are strictly foot races or triathlons -- from the training, to the event itself, to the free s.w.a.g., to the adrenaline rush as you get closer to the finish line, to the sense of accomplishment when its all over. However, there was one thing about this race that really made an impact on me and that was the encouragement.
  • By encouragement i mean the cheering on of the racers by the spectators & volunteers. Our race number bibs actually had our names on them in addition to our numbers. So not only did those on the sides of the streets cheer for us in general but they were able to yell our names as well. I was surprised by the difference it made. It made me feel singled out in a good way as in: "hey, that person is cheering for me." Which was a big deal considering there were 700 racers in this event.
  • But not only did those on the sidelines get in on the verbal encouragement, racers were encouraging each other too. If you saw someone struggling or not feeling good it was not uncommon to hear another racer give words of encouragement. And one of the more touching moments was when one of the 2 groups that were pulling/pushing a disabled person through the mile swim, 26 mile bike ride, and 6 mile run passed we as racers would cheer and applaud for them. These were special moments indeed.
  • All that said, the one thing that really left an impact on me was the actual effect my encouragement of others had on me. Whether i verbally supported another racer or just thanked a person handing me water as i ran by -- i usually got a boost of energy as i encouraged them.
  • At times there would be large crowds of people in one area cheering -- even just a simple nonverbal display of appreciation from me to them via a head nod, slapping high five, or a simple thumbs up gave me a lift. It was then when i realized that encouragement works both ways.
  • Who is encouraging to you? Who are you encouraging?
  • Are you being generous & kind with your words?
  • It really does matter because it really does have an impact!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meaningful Distinction...

(This picture hangs in my office -- its from IKEA)
I like this picture for a couple of reasons but the one that really drew my eye is the way the yellow taxi cabs stand out among the black & white in the rest of the picture. It sets them a part and makes them easily distinguishable in a very crowded and busy photo. It is the polar opposite of the "Where's Waldo" photo books (which i still like) and on a totally separate playing field from the "Magic Eye" photo books that made you have vertigo just to see the hidden picture (which i still like as well bc of the challenge & intrigue).

Recently i started reading a book called "Chief Culture Officer" by Grant McCracken (for a link see the section "Pages I'm Currently Turning") and i highly recommend it. In one section he talks about how Nike started distinguishing themselves from their competition through advertisements on TV. One in particular was the Nike "Tag" commercial where complete strangers in a big city played tag making a routine life more "playful and less predictable." This type of ad showed transcendence from being merely about "sports performance" or "shoes" and took us to an entirely new place in our minds and emotions. This was different, this was not just an ordinary advertising campaign.

Nike created "meaningful distinction" -- a term coined by Theodore Levitt of Harvard Business School. Of course Nike is not the only company to do this successfully, i am sure you can stop and think of a few more "giants" that have done this well.

I say all of that to get to my question: "Are you creating meaningful distinction with your life?" Distinction from what or for what you might ask? Good return question.

And i would follow up with another question: "What do you want to be meaningfully distinguished from?" Is it from another company/organization you compete against? Is it from co-workers and their performance levels/abilities? Is it from other guys/girls out there on the dating scene?

Or is it just with the overall value of your life and your efforts with it? Does your life stand out -- in a good way? Not for the sake of ego and self-promotion but for the sake of making a positive impact.

Are you creating meaningful distinction? Its a question worth asking...but more importantly its a question worth answering.
(This picture hangs in the office of Mike Vandermark -- yet another great example of meaningful distinction)