Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

December 9th, 2010 at 8:56 pm

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.” – A. A. Milne

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

“How To” books are a perilous endeavor. How to Win Friends and Influence People is worthwhile but The Secret is drivel. Right?

And so we are confronted with [How To] Make Ideas Happen, an instructional tome for creatives encouraging accomplishment by way of organization & execution, community involvement, and dynamic leadership.

I found it a worthwhile read of recommendations sure to sneak their way into my personal undertakings. I am confident I will experience rampant success immediately.

But I was certainly doubtful in the opening pages as Belsky encouraged the implementation of “energy lines,” “responsibility grids,” and “windows of nonstimulation.” Maybe I was expecting something more theoretical and less cheekily practical?

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fresh from his successes at Cornell, Harvard Business School, and Goldman Sachs, Belsky also recommends “Darwinian Prioritization,” i.e. nagging.

Praising the benefit of quick action, Belsky notes disparagingly that “Bureaucracy was born out of the human desire for complete assurance before taking action.” I know, complete assurance can be such a bummer. What squares those people are who prefer lame things like assurance.

Page 70, the beginning of the chapter on Execution, begins with the infamous Thomas Edison quote: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” And not until page 99 comes the rub: “Unfortunately, perspiration is not glamorous.” No shit. And thus we are paid to do what others do not want.

But all is not lost. Belsky has his own quotes to rival Edison: “To envision what will be, you must remove yourself from the constant concern for what already is.”

And “[Engaged leaders] are driven by deeply held convictions rather than by some persona that requires tremendous energy to uphold.”

But the most relevant, and to me revelatory, segment came when Belsky noted the importance of storytelling to leadership. But more on that in my own book.

There is nothing but stories.

Ultimately though, Belsky is a disciple of the Gold Sachs and is proudly supervising his own network of grifters and charlatans. He has created a vast money-making enterprise and this book is little more than a philosophical mouthpiece to proselytize his wares. Look at all the neat products you creatives can buy.

Have you fully implemented the Action Method?

Purchased tickets to the Conference?

The Behance Network seems legitimate and reasonable and respectable. What happened?

Into this type of thing?

December 6th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Franklin Gothic

War is Boring

December 2nd, 2010 at 3:39 pm

A provocative title for a slender graphic novel that is boring.

War is Boring by David Axe

It begins formally and dutifully enough. With a dedication.

“For Moqtar Hirabe, gunned down by Somali insurgents in Mogadishu in June 2009 – and for all the other fixers, stringers, interpreters, drivers and guards who’ve risked their lives, and sometimes given them, to help us reporters do our jobs.”

Following this honorable, respectful acknowledgment, Ted Rall’s introduction let’s us know a bit more about this David Axe guy who thinks War is Boring. Axe is an adrenaline junkie with a death wish. He is cynical. He’s not afraid of dying.

But most importantly, David Axe is a war correspondent and with him via cartooney frames we go to Chad, Iraq, and back home to South Carolina where Axe tells us that, sure, War is Boring but Peace is Worse.

And then on to Lebanon, Washington DC, and East Timor where Axe is stricken by a severe bout of contemplation.

“Truth is, I didn’t really know any more what was normal, or, for that matter, what was right, what was wrong, and what was best for myself and those around me. Is war an aberration or the most basic human function, the thing we resort to when all our comforts crumble?

“In choosing war, was I courageously embracing some important, painful truth? Or was I willfully ignoring the real truth? That most people live in peace, comfortably, happily, and have no need for a place like East Timor. Had war chosen me, or had I chosen it? And what did that say about me?”

And on to Afghanistan where we are exposed to corruption and death.


And a second bout of existentialism.

“I should have been happy. After all I’d seen and done, I should have treasured every friendship, relished every beer and reveled in every moment I wasn’t getting shot at, blown up or mortared.

{Yeah, you should have. You’d probably have a more compelling story to tell.}

“But every beer tasted stale. Every conversation was a lie. I still found war tedious. I still found peace worse. I didn’t feel much anymore. What pleasure I used to take in everyday things was replaced with a constant low-grade anger.

“Anger at the millions of Americans who sacrifice nothing while their neighbors fight and die overseas. Anger at the pundits and editorial cartoonists who make their living criticizing wars they know nothing about and are too cowardly to go see for themselves.

{You say War is Boring. I say War is Bad. I don’t need to experience war to know its spoils. I don’t need to have tragedy to know it’s sorrow. I don’t need to have cancer to know that it’s bad.}

“Anger at the assholes who started it all. But mostly anger at myself for thinking that going off to war would make me smarter, sexier, and happier.

{Yeah, that was foolish. And now I’m angry at myself for thinking that your book was going to be engaging, worthwhile, and good.}

“Maybe I wasn’t angry at the ignorant Americans after all. Maybe I was jealous.”

And then on to Somalia.

And on to his girlfriend dumping him and his return home. To Detroit.

In the Afterword, Axe is bleak and crass.

“The more of the world I see, the less sense it makes. The more different people I meet, the less I believe in their humanity. The older I get, the less comfortable I am in my own skin. We are a world at war, sometimes quietly, often not. We are the cleverest monsters, and we deserve everything we’ve got coming.

“Everything falls apart. Everyone dies in time. In the great, slow reduction of our lives and history, the things we can believe in shrink into a space smaller than our own bodies. To preserve them, for as long as you might, arm yourself, and be afraid.”

Ultimately, there are many reasons why War is Boring was an unsuccessful contribution to the canon of storytelling. Perhaps it was a poor choice of form? For a graphic novel from a war correspondent, it is starkly void of stirring imagery. Little action, little plot or decision making. And what a slouch of a protagonist. <See above>

Arm yourself. Be afraid.

Not bad advice. Can’t say as I disagree. And I’ve never even been to Chad nor Iraq nor South Carolina nor Lebanon nor Washington D.C. nor East Timor nor Afghanistan nor Somalia nor Detroit.

I guess I’m disappointed because while it is acceptable for War to be Boring, it is categorically unacceptable for Your Book to be Boring.

I’m disappointed in the book’s tone. It strikes me as immature, glib, and unexamined. Too much time spent with Axe’s neuroses and emotional flailing (which aren’t very entertaining). His actual war reporting I’m sure is stellar and gripping.

P.P.S. David, you have found violent, bloody conflict to be boring. Have you tried drugs? Sex?