Pragmatism, Please

Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, but you don't need a nuke, either

Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, but you don't need a nuke, either

I believe that I have reached the saturation point with regards to news, commentary, and punditry regarding the financial crisis, the war, our botched foreign policy, and a litany of other ills – - I think we are all there. The “never waste a good catastrophe” faux-optimistic cliché isn’t much help, but it does ring true for me, and I figured it was an opportunity for me to put it to good use.  Other than taking time off from working in order to have the leisure time to sit around and think about this stuff, I figured it was also a chance to examine the relevant life and professional lessons that might be gleaned.

I watched President Obama’s inaugural speech, what I was most impressed with was his pragmatism, and I think that America is seriously jonesing for a healthy dose of pragmatism (as opposed to blind faith, dogmatism, etc.).  The other night on 60 minutes, again, I was impressed with his pragmatism – - at one point, Steve Croft gave him a bit of a hard time for laughing, but I would argue that in the face of partisan bickering from all sides, what could one man do but laugh. A lot of people talk about Obama’s competence as a major reason for their affinity to him and his message, and here’s to that, but pragmatism, I feel, is always a key ingredient in building competency.

So what do I mean by pragmatism?  Well, in general, it seems the consensus is that there are two major definitions: the dictionary definition of the word (“a practical approach to problems and affairs”) and the philosophical movement surrounding the work of men such as Charles Pierce, William James, and John Dewey in American in the late 19th century. The two meanings, while different in terms of the level of complexity and provenance, are quite similar in practical terms (yes – practical… forgive the sort-of pun).  The definition I like the best is the first line on the Wikipedia Page for Pragmatism – a quote from William James: “Pragmatism is the philosophy of considering practical consequences or real effects to be vital components of meaning and truth.”

Competence and pragmatism seem linked to me, and I often think that pragmatism is a prerequisite for competence.  Once in a while, you may encounter someone who seems effortless in their competence and success without showing any signs of pragmatism – - they seem to float above any need for a pragmatic approach and they forge their reputation and empire on ideals and brains alone – - they appear to never to have to make a trade-off.  I’m not saying they don’t exist, but my feeling is that they are just very good at making it look easy (the best at anything always do).

Its always so easy to look at a problem or a challenge through the lense of emotion, religion, cultural bias, or even superstition – we are wired for that.  Real competence is to look ahead the reality of consequences and understand that principals are very important, but only if positive results are ultimately achieved.  If there was ever a time for pragmatism – - man, this is it.
“I want to conquer the world, Give all the idiots a brand new religion…”

-          Bad Religion

5 Reasons Why SXSW Will Suck Without Me

Geez, for a guy who likes to talk about himself a lot, I am downright sheepish when it comes to blogging.  I really thought that given my leisurely lifestyle these days, I would be posting more, but alas, somehow I am always just a little bit too busy, uninspired, or utterly apathetic.  No matter – here I am, and I’m blogging like the wind.  My last (ok, only) blog post did garner a fair bit of attention, so in order to safely make my way back into the good graces of my many thousands of readers, I will follow a similar theme.

So, first – some bad news.  I will not be attending SXSW this year, interactive, music or otherwise.  It is the first time in a while, and I have to say I’m pretty glad because my doctor said that every year I don’t go to SXSW I live another 5 years… I should make it to 45 no problem now.  Anyway, for the rest of you, some more bad news… my absence will create a void that no amount of queso or Shiner will be able to fill (believe me, queso can normally fill the hell out of a void – - and holes in dry-wall in a pinch).  SXSW should probably just cancel itself and spare itself the embarrassment of my absence, but if you must still attend, then let me warn you – - ok, here’s the 10:

1.       When I check into the Omni, they always try and get me to sign the “No Partying” waiver, and I immediately reach for my bullhorn and verbally slay them with an emotional, yet eloquent tirade about the violation of my rights as a citizen and an Asian American.  This always causes them to suspend the “No Partying” rule, even though most people don’t know this to be true or that I was the impetus.  Sorry – all you suckers staying in the Omni this year – no partying for you.

2.             The quality of the performances will go down – - why?  I generally attend a lot of shows while there, and almost every one I attend, I perform the following service for the artists and audience.  I position myself in clear site of the band and proceed to cross my arms and make the “my god, this may be the worst music I have ever heard” face.  Some may feel that this is cruel, rude, or negative, but by creating a situation whereby the artist is then compelled  to try and please me, I raise their game.  After that, everyone wins.

3.             All of those private parties that offer free booze will have a surplus of drinks, as they probably factored in my attendance in advance.  This will throw off their game, and through a downward spiraling series of events, the party will end up sucking. I have proven this mathematically, but its really advanced non-Euclidean stuff that’s way over the head of the average blog reader.

4.             The absence of my warm and generous personality will drop the temperature at least 10 degrees.  Bring some gloves.

5.             My loud booming voice is a great asset at this cacophonous event, and the lack of my vocal powers will mean that many people will have their heads down with their Twitters and texts and missing all the real action. Perhaps if one of you brings a bull-horn, you may be able to replace me in this regard.

Well – that’s it.  I know many of you will go ahead and go anyway, but you’ve been warned.