Defining Who I Am and Who You Are.


Defining who I am is a long story, over 50 years long to tell the truth. Defining who you are follows the same formula.

Fortunately for you I can sum up who I am pretty quickly. I am the sum of every experience, multiplied by every decision I have made divided by the decisions others made for me and how I reacted to them. For instance, I chose to leave home and join the Air National Guard, and take an active duty job as a security policeman. I didn’t chose to go to the Middle East. I was ordered to do so and I decided (my reaction) that going was better than prison.

But not every decision in life is that easy, and clearly from the formula, (Experience+Decisions)/(Others Decisions+Reactions) = Me, defining who I am isn’t that easy either. The funny thing is that we are all very simple people and are a lot more alike than we think. Because of our own unconscious bias, we don’t always see eye to eye even if we are saying the exact same thing.

Find Yourself

One book I read years ago said if you are lost, go sit on the beach for a day and figure out who you are. I tried it, got bored and went surfing. I figured I must be a frustrated professional surfer. Sadly I was too old to start taking on Kelly Slater even if I could get Brett Simpson to coach me.

While I flew jets in the military and fly jets for a major airline, it is clear to most I am a pilot. The questions is “What does being a pilot mean to me?”. For years I have been going with the flow and stayed pretty much in the traditional “pilot lane”. But there has always been this drive to do things differently. One day a general drew a box on a white board, walked to the other side of the room and put a dot on a window. He said “Son, you might be the smartest guy I have ever met, but you gotta learn to live in the box if you want to make it in the Air Force. Thats the box and that dot over there is you.” I chose to retire.

Being an Actor

Regardless of what you think about John Travolta, I have admired much of his acting work, and lived in envy of the fact that he could define himself as a pilot, without getting paid to be one. For a while I thought I would head back to Hollywood and maybe be someone like that. I could be an actor and just own the airplanes. Shoot, even Tom Cruise does that. If you check my IMDB you’ll see I haven’t made enough to even rent an airplane so after 10 years of acting school, I admit it is harder than it looks.

Calls Signs Were The Hint

My first call sign was “Data”, because I was always a bit of a computer geek. Unlike my brother who is a genius programmer, I don’t have the patience to sit in front of a computer for 12-16 hours a day. I tried, I failed.

Every military pilot has an “Additional Duty”. That is some secondary job to help out when they aren’t flying. I was of course the squadron computer nerd. Officially known as the director of information technology. That position helped my military career way more than being a pilot. It was a great balance while it lasted. Sometime after I became an instructor pilot, my call sign was changed. 99% of the time if you get a new call sign it means bad things. My new one was “Brain” as in “Pinky and the…”

My new name was because of my new ‘secondary duty’. Suddenly I was on the “fast track” for promotions and talking to the big bosses every few days. Squadron mates said I was “Taking over the world”. Thus the call sign change.

My wife was even being groomed by the generals wives to become one of them. She was looking forward to it, and wasn’t happy when I chose to retire instead of get promoted again.

The Aha Moment

Yesterday I started on East Coast Time so this morning I got up very early. I laid in bed a little sad that I couldn’t go surfing. It has been raining all week and the water is full of all the trash from the rivers of Southern California. Sad to say but true, I have to wait three days for all that stuff to float to Mexico and on to a dead zone.

Soon my day started running through my head. I was going to have a very difficult customer meeting. Not because the customer is difficult, but because they don’t know what the problem is, and they haven’t even asked. Telling people the answer doesn’t work, Aristotle was right. I learned that trying to teach a military pilot how to fly a KC-10. No matter how many times I told the student what to do, they wouldn’t do it. When I asked the right questions, they suddenly got it.

What questions could I ask?

What Matters More UI or UX?

This morning I asked myself the right question, but completely by accident. After getting out of bed I started looking over notes for my upcoming meeting and writing some content for our website. I am designing a mobile app for the client. The UX (User Experience) flows are great but the UI (User Interface) sucks because the software they use is terrible. The aha moment started as I was trying to make the mobile app UI as clean and nice as the website UI. The website UI was also as clean and nice as the UI at the business.

The mobile app and the business had opposite problems. The UX at the business was the problem and the owners can’t see it past the awesome UI. The business is a visually stunning place, no expense was spared. The experience I have had there as a customer has been one star at best. Then I started thinking about the dive bar I had dinner in last night. It’s a dive bar. The UI is well… ugly. But the experience is awesome. I am starting to think UX matters just a little more. So how do I break it to them.

It’s All About Me

Running through the possible conversations in my head I thought of my chance meeting with Mark Zuckerberg a long time ago. He looked like a bum. A very well thought out bum. His hoodie was perfect. His personal UI was that of a slacker hacker but not really. His aggressive business smarts came right through and the UX of the interaction is still memorable. With Steve Jobs it was similar. In the office, he never wore a suit that I saw, even with investors screaming at him. Then I wondered what my UI/UX blend is and how that effects me.

With both of these business moguls the UI was clean, purposeful and simple. I admired that about both of them. For so much of my life, my UI has been a uniform defined by others. Since leaving the Air Force Reserves in 2004 my wardrobe has become a mish-mash of sweats, jeans, Tommy Bahama shirts, Early Bum T-shirts and suits. My UI is clearly inconsistent and in need of help, and never mind 25 pounds of extra Covid weight according to my doctor.

Writing some content about UX for our company website it hit me. Everything I do comes down to a couple of small things. I am not just a web app UX designer, I am an experience designer. Since I was a little kid, I have tried to make things better. The experience of flying over traffic is way better than sitting in it. For our business, I hire UI people, not UX. I am not the best guy at graphics and making things look pretty. I make things highly functional for a better UX. Even my garage is all about the experience of working and parking cars in it.

So I figured out the formula for my life is (Experience+Decisions)/(Others Decisions+Reactions) = Scott the experience designer. Now I gotta figure out a UI that fits the UX so my closet can be part of that better experience at home.

So Now What is Your UI/UX?

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