Archive of category "Motivation"

Fail Faster!

by Jacob Corvidae

“Fail Faster” has become a mantra in innovation circles. And it dovetails well with our notion that Detroit can be a laboratory for the 21st century, solving problems that haven’t been solved before, in part because of its struggles.

But risk-taking is very counter-intuitive to most of us. So how do we develop this skill? Naturally, I’m thinking about games as a mechanism for learning this skill. Come join the conversation as we explore this idea in the Gameful community:

by Jacob Corvidae

Saving the world is hard enough without it also being boring. So here’s a smattering of ways to have fun while being more eco-friendly.

  1. The Fun Theory - a great competition that came up with a bunch of creative ways to get people to do more eco-things by making them the more fun option. Their site features a bunch of videos of the entries. Shown here was a great recycling bin design that got people to run around gathering recyclables to use it.
  2. Japan’s Fun Train – Want to make more people use trains? What if they were great places to be in? These two trains from Japan are great examples of using this idea to make trains more kid-friendly. But really the idea could be taken in many different directions with amazing results.
  3. Seed bomb vending machine – Treehugger pointed this nice one out, and I don’t know if it really makes anything more fun, but it tickled me pink, so here it is.
  4. Designers’ eco- coloring book – Now, I know that many alterna-folks aren’t crazy about coloring books, because of the notion that it’s spoonfed “coloring-in-the-lines” instructions. But that wasn’t my experience at all as a kid. Rather, it was a great way to get comfy with using color, discovering color combinations and playing with different techniques and materials. In any case, this book is even more fun. Professional illustrators were asked to contribute pages on an environmental theme, making for a fun, arty coloring book that you can also use to indoctrinate your child into the eco-hegemony! Shown here, an illustration from the book by Delphine Vaufrey.
  5. Rep. Markey’s statement on Climate Change Deniers – This just stands as a great example of how activism is far more fun when we bring in humor instead of just polemics. It’s only a little over a minute and really worth a listen.  See vid clip below.

by Jacob Corvidae

Music is a powerful force in the universe: it can inform, inspire, move and enlighten us. Except when it sucks.

And sure enough, it’s easier to write a sucky song about politics than a good one. In fact, Grist provided a whole list of songs about climate change that suck [Link corrected - sorry 'bout that]. So I went on a quest to find songs about this topic that don’t suck. And it wasn’t easy. I couldn’t even get 10. But it’s a start, and I’m hoping you can let me know of any others.

My criteria were pretty simple and completely subjective: it had to be intelligent and sophisticated in it’s handling of the subject, or fun and clever, but anything insipid or trite was not allowed.

So, in no particular order, here’s the list:

Climate Songs That Don’t Suck

This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven – Pixies – lyrics

Idioteque – Radiohead – lyrics

Watershed – Vienna Teng – lyrics

Tables and chairs – andrew bird – lyrics

The Clock – Thom Yorke (and ALBUM: The Eraser) – lyrics

And note that this entire album (!!) is apparently about climate change, but this one stands alone in a way that I don’t think the others do.

Sleeping in – postal service – lyrics

White Light – Vienna Teng – lyrics

While I’ve been told this may not be strictly about climate change, I think it works well for it – and the sounds like a tea-pot heating up and whistling puts it in place for me.

Yes, that’s it. 7 songs. Despite a list of over 350 climate related songs that others have put together. Now, maybe some of those don’t suck. I didn’t listen to or know them all.

But here are 2 Special Mentions to at least boost the list a little:
Thanks – Erin McKeown, Amy Martin and Missoula Coyote Choir – lyrics
A sweet song off the great biomimicry kids album by Amy Martin.

Long Line of Cars – Cake – lyrics

Enjoy – and let me know if you know of any others.

by Jacob Corvidae

As I’ve said before, I got all excited this winter about Jane McGonigal’s TEDtalk and the notion of making the task of changing the world FUN.  So imagine my thrill, when my first draft of an idea was listed as Game of the Week (for several weeks) last month at McGonigal’s Gameful website (home of games of the social good).

Some details still need fleshing out, and it needs some real-time play testing. If you’re interested, write to boltofninjas [at] Meanwhile, here are the basics:

Bolt of Ninjas!

Your friend’s house has a Ninja infestation… started by YOU!

One of the problems with saving energy or water, is that to most people they’re invisible. No one can see the difference. Home improvements are more fun when you can see them right? Invisible is bad, right? Wrong! Invisible is good… when you’re a Ninja!

Bolt of Ninjas! is a real-life game that is a designed to be a bunch of fun, while also helping out your friends and making the world a better place. What’s not to love?

The goal: Help make a friend’s home more energy efficient.

The challenge: You have limited time in which to get the work done — without being caught!

The rules for Bolt of Ninjas! are really pretty basic and explained in detail below:

by Jacob Corvidae

Conceptual frameworks that help us understand the full picture are really useful when tackling such complex topics a social change. And of course, conceptual frameworks are just that: a useful framework that still needs lots of details filled in from a lot experience, detailed study, specific approaches, etc.  But without those frameworks, it’s easy to miss seeing the forest for the trees.

Of course, when those conceptual frameworks are also combined with simple, but effective graphics, the results are much easier to remember.

So, I was pleased to be introduced recently to a nice re-framing of the Quadrants of Reality concept from Ken Wilber’s integral theory through the fabulous Lisa Chacon’s The ABC’s of Social Change. In this introductory article, she outlines the concept and then shows how three popular books on motivation fit within this larger framework – and also how a reader runs the risk of missing important tools if they read one without being aware of the larger framework.

Her article also references the behavior change model from Stanford’s BJ Fogg. Again, useful information distilled into a pretty accessible format. It’s not actually pretty, but (at least with the  b=mat chart) still makes it easier to remember the model.

Lisa tells me that she’s got more in-depth work coming on this in the future. I’ll watch with anticipation.

by Jacob Corvidae

Who said that saving the world had to be a chore? I was blown away when I stumbled upon this TED talk by Jane McGonigal, who’s already tapping game design concepts and gamer geek enthusiasm to create awareness about peak oil and another to create solutions for major crises in Africa.

Watch this TED talk and see if you’re as inspired as I was.  Meanwhile, I’ve started talking with folks about possible games to help Detroit’s sustainability efforts. AND i just invented a game concept to help advance energy efficiency (though I have a few bugs to work out — I’ll announce it here once it’s completed).

So,  forget the Doom and Gloom! Try something more like Doom and Pictionary.

If you’re geeked enough to want to participate in the games-can-save-the-world revolution, be sure to check out Gameful.

by Jacob Corvidae

Hey folks, just a heads up that Powering the Nation just posted a guest blog I did for them on the future of energy. Yep, that’s me on the list, right above John Kerry.

Here’s the list of guest editorials:

And here’s a direct link to my full article:

by Jacob Corvidae

Don’t miss it! This awesome event is going on all week (Earth Week) to encourage kids to turn off the electronics and go outside during the week. And it’s based on the great song by (my dear sweet friend) Amy Martin, sung by Ani Difranco and backed the Biomimicry Institute. How cool can you get?

There’s a free activities workbook you can download. You can listen to the song. You can join up with other kids around the country. It’s great – and you can find it all here.

My daughter got all excited at the beginning of 2010 because she realized that this was the year named in the song (which she was already a big fan of).

The whole CD is great, and not only has some of Amy’s best and funnest songwriting, but also features Bruce Cockburn, Dar Williams, Erin McKeown, Laura Love, and others.  Buy it for every cool teacher or kid you know and ask your local kid stores to carry it. The website also has free teacher resources, etc.

Rock it on, spread the news and sign up now!

by Jacob Corvidae

One of my colleagues here at WARM is considering grad school in a sustainable engineering program at U of M.  She recently asked me for book recommendations on sustainability in general and sustainable tech in specific.  So much of my library is more focused on DIY stuff, and having read a number of sustainability books that I didn’t find that useful,  I was surprised at how few recommendations I had.  I gave her two recommendations:

Cradle to Cradle by Williams McDonough and Michael Braungart

Biomimicry by Janine Beynus

(and the biomimicry folks have an additional recommended reading list which looks great!)

So I thought I’d ask: what would you recommend? What are the best books for sustainability in general and sustainable tech in general? Load up in the comments field and I’ll compile for a future post. Share this far and wide to solicit more opinions…

While we’re at it — how about blogs or websites for sustainable tech?


by Jacob Corvidae

I was radically changed by my experience of moving to the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in its earliest days and trying to build a new society starting nearly from scratch.  Having just spent most of my 20s trying to do some good things in the world and thinking a lot about what was important to me, I had nonetheless found it hard to enact my beliefs in every day life. And then I moved to the ecovillage, where the whole point was to enact many of those beliefs.

My mother sometimes jokingly (mostly) referred to it as Voluntary Hardship. But the irony was that the work was a pleasure and blurred the standard connotations of “work.”  It was, if you’ll forgive the jargon, empowering. Instead of “work” draining my soul, it fed it, and thus my work gave me energy. It gave me power. I wouldn’t be the first to point out that this may be our most significant kind of renewable energy.

One of my favorite Dancing Rabbit sayings came from those early days. We were trying to build a sustainable society, but many of didn’t have the skills we wanted.  And when it came time to do something new, we had to just launch in and do our best. Thus we had the saying:

If you’ve seen it done, you’re good at it.

If you’ve done it once, you’re an expert.

This was later amended with “And if you’ve read about it, you’re a consultant!” We’d say it with a laugh, roll up our sleeves and make whoever had done it once teach the rest of us. We did a lot of reading and research and sometimes we made some horrible mistakes. But mostly we got a lot done by not letting our own limitations get in the way. It completely changed how I approach living in the world.

I was reminded of this when reading Derrick Jensen’s recent article in Orion Magazine, Resistance Resisters. I’ve long been a fan of Orion and I know many people who are big fans of Jensen’s. I’ve personally had mixed reactions to different things of his that I’ve read and this article fit the pattern.

I appreciate Jensen’s clarion call for deep change and his dissatisfaction with piecemeal efforts. However, I also find his rhetoric to be anything from unhelpful to damaging as a strategy to achieve the very ends he’s pursuing. For now, I’d like to focus on one particular aspect: action.

Jensen’s criticism is a strong call to action. And as per my own experience, action becomes a very useful teacher. The overcoming of inertia is a mighty feat by itself  (one of the reason’s why I think Jensen’s condemnation of small steps is misled), and more importantly action leads to feedback. Action and learning are not separate acts, and in fact action often spurs greater learning than just reading or thinking, for action provides new information about the particulars of the exact scenario in front of you.  So  I agree with Jensen that we must take action.

But actions taken out of fear and anger tend to beget more fear and anger. And this is the problem with Jensen’s treatise. Even if one is deciding to take a direct action civil disobedience approach, even if fear or anger provided the initial impetus and spark to action, being driven by these twin demons rarely results in a greater good for the world.

I’ve certainly found this to be very true in my personal life.  It’s such a simple premise, but I saved myself tremendous trouble when I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t make any major decisions or take any major actions when feeling miserable, but only once I saw something that I felt hopeful about to move to. I don’t think this maxim always holds true, especially when one is in danger or under threat. But once those kinds of threats are out of the way, I found that I did much better when I waited until I found, felt or saw something good that I wanted to move toward instead of just moving away from something that was hard. When I acted out of pain, then I was usually not happy with the results.

If we carry this analogy forward to Jensen’s article, it calls into question the danger-exception. He eloquently points out the danger and threat to many forms of life currently underway. So the call to action stands. Still, when we ask what actions we will choose I’d rather take my chances with hope and love than fear and anger. I think we’ll build a better future for all life that way.

This doesn’t mean choosing to not act at all, however. Even given my maxim. The top priority then becomes seeking the actions that provide positive directions. We still cannot ignore the dangers and damage.

Looking through the various posts of the recent blogathon, I came across this beautiful description from Liz McClellan, organizer of Hyperlocavore – A Free Yard Sharing Community about her visit to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage back in the early days. I think it makes an excellent mantra for this topic. It’s what she said she learned from that visit:

Stop talking. Do.
And while you do, Dance.