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Archive for July, 2012

The Craft & Power of the Office Bully

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

There is no denying that even the most confident person will find it difficult at times to traverse the occasional bully trap – baited, stalked and hunted down as carrion by the deliberate grizzly bear in the office (playground or home).

A classic example of this type of bullying in action can be like watching a professional heavyweight boxer dismember a lesser journeyman:

  1. Separate the weaker prey from the agile pack
  2. Apply sarcasm or minor ridicule to make them falter (or run)
  3. Instantly jump on stumbles or justifications without quarter
  4. Eat the office carrion among an elated ecstatic (or quietly complicit) cohort

The problem is that as strong as we feel and as confident or well educated as we become it’s rather easy for a professional heavyweight bully to dismember us. Our self-belief is heavily invested in the people around us – including strangers and those we dislike or fear.

And that’s all the craft that the bully needs to know – peer pressure doesn’t stop at our High School graduation. It seamlessly migrates into the workplace, the home and the local hotel.

So when you are awake at 3am thinking about all the smart things you should have replied in the initial phase of your dismemberment I want you to consider one simple thing. It doesn’t matter what you would have replied at that point; even if you had calmly explained the rationale behind their strategy and if you had tried to move away to higher moral ground… by that stage they would have devoured you anyway. With ridicule. Repetition. Sarcasm. And by massaging the group dynamic.

The same tactics are rife on school buses across the country every weekday.

All you can do (beyond lodging a complaint) is stop seeing yourself as a bullying victim and reposition the event as a bullying experience. Victim does as much to steal your personal power as does the school mentality of group complicity that it rides through the office on. In my experience, that bully has also invested heavily in becoming integral to the manager’s in-group. That’s bully-craft 101. That’s a part of step 1: Separate the weaker prey from the agile pack (only eat the out-group).

Because just like rape isn’t about sex, bullying isn’t about pushing you into a toilet urinal. And they are both about (Big P) Power. Only, the first seems to draw a moral outrage that the second can’t elicit. But sit in a post-bullying tea room. Somebody was raped. Figuratively. Communally. And everybody in that room knows it.

It could be the CEO, a colleague or the office joker. It could be the postman that arrives every afternoon at 3pm with a jab in the stomach. It’s not about what they do to you but how you feel about the experience. That’s the Power of the bully.

Authentic Products Wield Authentic Stories

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Too many products come out without realising the power of having an authentic story. They push a brand. They fill a need. But they don’t necessarily invoke the passion that inherently brought them into being.

I’m a mazer (mead maker) so I’ll use mead as a good example of a product currently being pushed that seems to be lacking an authentic story. If you’re a mead maker you could take this as an opportunity to reinvigorate your product and your business bottom line.

In the current paradigm we have mead primarily being framed in customers minds as honey wine. Or at least as a pseudo-wine. And a primary driver of this is that it’s often wineries looking to increase their lines and diversify their income who see mead as a natural extension. Sometimes they don’t even make mead; you can buy meade – a wine with honey added.

That’s a soulless product being stamped with the seal of heart wrenching mediocrity straight out of the box. Yes, there are a few small mazers selling their wares but for the main part their market is being primed and educated by those wineries.

It’s no wonder that when you produce good quality cyser or melomel for tasting that people can’t help themselves saying “Oh this one is like a sherry.” And in that frame of reference you have to wonder why somebody would pay $35 for a bottle of mead instead of a real bottle of wine.

Now try this repositioning of the mead. It’s the product of 9000+ years of human heritage in the glass. Mead predates agriculture and has been made, enjoyed and included as a cultural artifact from Africa to the Middle East to Eastern Europe. Mead isn’t a wine… mead is its own thing.

My cysers and melomels are made from organic Huon Valley apple juice and Huon Valley honey. When you drink my mead (in a shot glass or heated on the stove or in a pitcher on ice) you are enjoying that 9000+ year human experience of an authentic hand crafted artisan product – not a mass produced automated bottle pumped through a line of tens of thousands.

Embrace Lomography with the Holga 120n

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

It’s hard to identify what is so undeniably satisfying about picking up a cheap plastic camera and trying to shoot interesting photography. The lens is plastic. One of our cameras has a loose screw left inside by the manufacturer (we’ve nicknamed her “Tinkerbell”). And some of those plastic camera photographs just plain suck.

But most of those photographs don’t suck at all. Most have a surreal quality that you would be pressed to achieve on a factory perfect film or digital camera.

And plastic cameras have a great quality as physical objects. Light. Inexpensive. You wouldn’t think twice about dropping one into a zip-lock bag loaded with a $7 roll of 120 film and swimming out into the populated surf. What’s the worst that could happen to your camera? A new Holga 120n on Amazon is only going to cost you $30 plus around $8 shipping.

It means people can take chances. Even famous photographers, like Michael Kenna, throw plastic cameras into their luggage when they travel away on photoshoots. While others, like Tim Hixson, embrace plastic cameras for entire projects.

In the modern context, a plastic camera is just as liberating to a photographer as an Indian motorcycle would have been to a disgruntled teen of the 1950s. Breeze in the hair, no straight-head photographer rules and a highway leading to a curious horizon of possibilities.

My point is that you can stand back and look at the whole lomography movement (even the general back-to-film momentum around it) and not get why somebody would choose a medium that has been superseded by sharper and more perfection driven technologies. To many photographers this whole film thing is unfathomable. I understand that mental dilemma – there are freaks in the park with long hair, man… they’re smoking pot and being different. They’re passing around a Polaroid Automatic Land Camera and making stupid flawed images.

And, of course, you can use software to replicate the visual aesthetic of film photography. But that’s not the point.

Shooting film is about the slow drawn-out experience of enjoying a good wine. It’s about a slow kiss outside a theatre. It’s about the mental chess of pushing out two shots on a roll of film instead of machine-gunning the arse off a super-fast memory card. And it’s about the smell of chemicals and the magic of a process that dates back to the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore’s famous line from Apocalypse Now comes to mind “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

Don’t be fooled that because the artefact appears to provide the same result that the two photographies are identical beyond their manacle to light. Film photography projects light onto an exposed chemical sensitive medium… the other projects light and interprets the ones-and-zeros on a sensitive digital chip.

It’s not saying one photography is better than the other, only that they’re different. You can enjoy both. But until you get down and dirty with some film – and there is no better way than with a cheap Holga 120n – you really haven’t danced with the devil and howled under the full moon at midnight. Film photography offers you a tactile experience, it’s about physics and chemistry. It’s about more than just the photographic artefact you come away with. Give it a try.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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