Thursday, February 21, 2008

Input vs. Output

Work is kind of slow these days, so I'm taking some corporate training classes online, like "Influencing Without Authority" and "Critical Thinking," and the best thing about them is that they have all sorts of great pictures to illustrate their points.

I know this is basically a case of the smug, cynical employee making fun of the corporate videos to prove that he's too cool for The Man's brainwash material, but they shouldn't make it so easy on me with pictures like this:

The training I've been going through at work reflects a trend appearing in other parts of my life lately - specifically, a trend in my input to output ratio. 

For example, workplace training can be considered input: the trainee receives information from an outside source.  Workplace duties, for most people, can be considered output: in my case, I produce documents, tweak and install software, troubleshoot the system, etc.  Lately, circumstances have dictated that I've had to spend more time doing the former than the latter.

Creativity can also be thought of as an input/output system.  Reading is input, and lately I've been on a tear, finishing Hunter S. Thompson's posthumous oral biography, the entire Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels, and Alan Cooper's assessment of why tech products suck all in a relatively short amount of time (for me).  However, this is my first written blog post (output) in over a month, while before that I had a streak of several posts no more than two weeks apart.

My guitar/piano practice (output) has been on the decline as well, or at least not as satisfying, and the ideas that I do get around to recording never seem very good to me the next day.  I envy my friends who seem to be better disciplined in this area; I'd expect that they make practice a priority, whereas I can never pick up my guitar until I've replied to all my emails, screwed around for a while, checked all my daily websites for updates... and by then it's usually almost time for this 9-to-5er to get ready for bed.  On the other hand, I've been listening to a shitload of podcasts (input) - Kevin Smith's SModcast and Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast are two of my favorites - and trying to pay better attention to what I like and don't like about the music I listen to, hoping that it can help me improve the stuff I'm recording.

Even my alcohol input seems to be on the rise lately.  But that's not so bad - until you input too much and are forced to output it.

There's no formula for the correct balance of input vs. output in everyone's lives.  In many cases, input facilitates an increase or improvement in output.  It's been fun to talk about this idea with people to sort out which activities are input and which are output - like if you go to the movies with your friends, watching the movie is input and discussing & deconstructing the movie afterwards is output.  This concept has been floating around my brain for a while now and I'm interested to hear other people's input (or output) on it.